Health Benefits of Lucuma

The lucuma fruit comes from the Pouteria lucuma tree that is native to the valleys of the Andes. The fruit is round with skin that can be yellow to brown in color and yellow pulp. People usually discard the skin and seeds and eat only the flesh of the fruit. 

While the fresh fruit is popular in South America, lucuma is most commonly available in a dried, powdered form in the United States. Its unique, sweet taste has been likened to maple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and caramel. 

Lucuma’s recent popularity comes from its ability to serve as an alternative sweetener.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of lucuma powder generally come from its antioxidants, which protect cells in the body from free radicals that are produced during the breaking down of food. The damage caused by free radicals can lead to serious diseases such as cancer. Lucuma is also touted for its high fiber content. Fiber helps your digestive system function properly.

It also contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals, but not enough to provide significant sources of these nutrients.

Lucuma powder can benefit your health in several ways, including:

Diabetes Control

One study found lucuma extracts to be effective in inhibiting blood sugar spikes and hypertension (high blood pressure) linked to Type 2 diabetes.

Lucuma is higher in complex carbohydrates (starches and fiber) than simple carbohydrates (sugars). Complex carbohydrates are harder to digest and therefore less likely to result in blood sugar spikes than simple carbohydrates, and lucuma is more diabetes-friendly than many sweeteners.

The glycemic index is one method for evaluating the impact that carbohydrates have on blood sugar levels and is an important tool in meal planning for people with diabetes. Some have claimed that lucuma powder is lower on the glycemic index, meaning it’s better for maintaining steady blood sugar levels.

The percentage of complex vs. simple carbohydrates is only one thing that can affect the glycemic index score, however, making lucuma’s low score impossible to confirm or disprove without further research.

Prevents Constipation

Lucuma fruit contains a lot of insoluble dietary fiber. This kind of fiber adds bulk to stool and helps clear waste from the system. 

Protects Against Cancer and Heart Disease

Lucuma has high levels of polyphenols and carotenoids, antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease as well as diabetes.

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Nutrition

When compared to other sweeteners, lucuma powder is low in sugar and rich in fiber and antioxidants, which makes it a more nutritious choice than most. 

Lucuma powder is also a good source of:

Nutrients per Serving 

A 40-gram serving of lucuma powder (about 2.5 tablespoons) contains:

Portion Sizes

While lucuma may be a healthier option than other sweeteners, it still has enough sugars that it should not be consumed in large quantities.

How to Use Lucuma Powder

You can find lucuma powder in health food stores or online. There are several ways you can incorporate it into your diet, including:

  • As an alternative sweetener for cereal or yogurt
  • As a flavoring for nut milks and nut butters
  • As an ingredient in smoothies
  • As a substitute for brown sugar in some baking recipes

Not all recipes will allow for a substitution of lucuma powder for brown sugar. If you want to experiment with it, you should generally work with a 2:1 ratio, using 2 cups of lucuma powder for every cup of brown sugar in the original recipe.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances inFood and Nutrition Research: “Bioactive Potential of Andean Fruits, Seeds, and Tubers.”

American Diabetes Association: “The 3 R's of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World.”

Food Chemistry: “Characterization of main primary and secondary metabolites and in vitro antioxidant and antihyperglycemic properties in the mesocarp of three biotypes of Pouteria lucuma.”

FoodData Central: “Lucuma Powder.”

Mayo Clinic: "Antioxidants."

Journal of Medicinal Food: “Evaluation of antihyperglycemia and antihypertension potential of native Peruvian fruits using in vitro models.”

Organic Lucuma: “What Culinary Uses Are There For Lucuma?”

Postharvest Biology and Technology and subtropical Fruits: “18 - Lucuma (Pouteria lucuma (Ruiz and Pav.) Kuntze).

Revista de la Sociedad Química del Perú: “Dietary fiber in fruits, roots, tubers, cereals and pulses from Peruvian cultivars.”

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