My regular readers know that I am a little nuts when it comes to healthy weight loss, so when I heard that there was a South American “peanut” – the fruit of the Sacha Inchi plant that is being touted as the latest weight loss superfood, I had to do a little investigating.
The Sachi Inchi is a plant that grows in the upland rainforests of Peru. The plant produces a star-like fruit whose seeds, when roasted, taste like peanuts. The Incas of Peru used the plant and its seeds for over 3000 years for a variety of medicinal purposes. The seeds or nuts have long been sold in health food stores as a healthy snack, and are a great source of omega-3s, the same omega-3s found in fish oils. Sacha Inchi nuts also contain omega-9s, and high amounts of vitamin A and E.
More recently, research seems to suggest that the nut not only is a great snack for dieters because of its high nutrition and satiety factor (that means it makes you feel full, so you eat less) but that Sacha Inchi may actually stimulate weight loss.
Preliminary research indicates that Sacha Inchi is very rich in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin that regulate hunger.
A Super Nut for Health Nuts
As a super-rich source of omega fatty acids, and loaded with protein, fiber, and antioxidants, whether they promote weight loss or not, it’s easy to classify Inca Peanuts as a super food. Vegans and raw food enthusiasts love ‘em because they are a plant-based way to get a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids.
Sacha Inchi nuts are a healthy source of complete proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids. A small handful, about an ounce of the tasty nuts, has almost 9 grams of protein. While technically seeds and not a nut, they do have a unique woody, nutty taste, and can be used in salads, and swapped for traditional nuts, flaxseeds, or sunflower seeds. Dr. Oz has listed the Inca Peanut as his “best snack for weight loss.”
Oils Well That Ends Well
Alternative medical practitioners and healthy weight loss advocates say it is not only the nuts themselves that promote good health, but oil made from the Sacha Inchi as well. Usually used as a dietary supplement in this country, Sacha Inchi oil is a rich source of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. There have been studies that have suggested Sacha Inchi oil may help control high cholesterol.
A 2001 study published in a Peruvian Medical Journal followed 24 patients with high cholesterol who were treated with supplemental Sacha Inchi oil for a period of four months. Many showed a decrease in their levels of “bad” (HDL) cholesterol.
In Peru and throughout South America the oil is used in cooking. It has a robust nutty flavor and is commonly used in salads, and meat, fish, and poultry recipes. Basically you can use it the same you would olive oil. Some prefer the taste, and there is evidence that it is more easily digested than olive oil.
While the researchers concluded that their findings called for increased investigation of the health benefits of Sacha Inchi oil, there is no doubt that the Omega –3s and 9s found in the Inca Peanut promote cardiovascular health, and along with flaxseed oil and fish oil, Sacha Inchi can be a great source of these nutrients.