Oh, our beloved superfoods. In recent years they’ve become staples on supermarket shelves and our plates, hailed for their ability to pack a mean nutritional punch in our diet.
With superfood royalty quinoa and maca originating from South America – foods that David Wolfe, nutrition writer and spokesperson for NutriBullet, describes as ‘the food and medicine of the future’ – we decided to take a look into what else this beautiful continent has to offer.
The verdict? Quite a lot. There’s an abundance of fruits, nuts, seeds and grains quietly growing away across the pond. And their seemingly small size belies their colossal nutritional properties. Chia seeds and spirulina are so 2015! It’s time to discover the newest superfoods…
1 Purple corn
Grown in the high mountains of Peru, purple corn can be purchased as a flour, cornmeal, kernels and even popcorn. So what’s with the colour? ‘The purple colour is its anthocyanin content, a very powerful antioxidant,’ explains Laura Wilson, nutritionist and author of The Alkaline 5 Diet. ‘Anthocyanins are plant pigments that are beneficial to the body and
are the reason why dark berries are held in such high regard,’ adds Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at NutriCentre. Such a high antioxidant content makes this superfood a great alternative to its yellow counterpart. Shona explains: ‘Purple corn can be eaten and processed in the exact same way as yellow corn; as a vegetable, a grain or a flour.’
Maiz Morado Purple Corn, £4.25, vivaperu.co.uk
Originating from Peru, this fruit makes a great alternative sweetener and has been used throughout history for this very purpose. It has an impressive nutrition profile. ‘Lucuma contains a considerable amount of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus,’ explains Laura. ‘Its creamy texture makes it the perfect substitute for dairy products and it’s said to be the most popular ice cream flavour in Peru.’
Bodyme Organic Lucuma, £3.99, nutricentre.com
Amaranth originates from South America (and India), and there’s no denying that this one is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s high in protein, and ‘one cup of uncooked amaranth has 31 per cent of the RDA for calcium, 14 per cent for vitamin C, and a whopping 82 per cent for iron,’ explains Laura. So what is it? Often referred to as ‘mini-quinoa’, amaranth is a grain-like seed that can be used in a number of ways. ‘It has the benefit of being free from gluten, so is a nutritious alternative for those who do not wish to consume gluten grains,’ says Shona. Either use as an alternative to quinoa, in a flour form for baking or in sauces to thicken. Or, try Laura’s idea: ‘You can make a lovely porridge with amaranth seeds, which is a traditional breakfast in India, Peru, Mexico, and Nepal.’ Yum!
Holland & Barrett Amaranth Advantage, £1.59, Holland & Barrett
‘Pichuberry, also called physalis or golden gooseberry, is a small orange berry that is native to Peru, Colombia and Ecuador,’ explains Shona. The fruit’s main pull is its high level of vitamins – not easy to come by in an everyday Western diet. In Peru they’re considered anti-diabetic as they help reduce blood sugar. Laura adds: ‘The pichuberry
contains vitamins D and B12, so is great for vegans and people who don’t get a lot of sunlight.’ The fruit also contains vitamin C (20 times more than an orange!) and iron. ‘The vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron – a perfect couple,’
Shona says. Eat them raw to preserve their vitamin C content.
Goldenberries (Organic Pichuberries), £13.75, biovea.net/uk
5 Sacha inchi
‘Sacha inchi, also known as incha nuts, are seeds native to the Peruvian and Amazon rainforests,’ says Shona. ‘They have been eaten by natives for more than 3,000 years and are a nutritious food.’ But why are they so good? ‘They’re rich in protein, omega-3, -6 and -9 essential fatty acids, alpha tocopherol, vitamin E, vitamin A and fibre,’ explains Laura. ‘They’re reportedly very good for promoting weight loss, lowering cholesterol and managing heart disease and diabetes.’ Their nutty taste means they’re delicious when roasted or can be ground and added to smoothies and desserts. Failing that, use the seed’s oil or simply add the whole seeds to salads.
Sacha Inchi oil, £10.43, inkanat.com/eu
6 Camu camu
Camu camu is a fruit that grows in the rainforests of Peru and Brazil. ‘It’s rich in vitamin C and flavonoids, which neutralise harmful free radicals and help with collagen formation,’ says Laura. ‘It’s also rich in polyphenols that decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, and protect the skin from sun damage.’ Camu camu powder tastes slightly similar to oranges, making it perfect to add to breakfasts, desserts and smoothies. ‘Compared with oranges, camu camu provides 30-50 times more vitamin C, 10 times more iron, three times more niacin, twice as much riboflavin, and 50 per cent more phosphorus,’ explains Laura.
Organic Camu Camu Powder, from £7.99, greensorganic.co.uk