Guest Post by Sasha de Beaussett, B.A., M.Sc.
You might have heard of sacha inchi as an up-and-coming superfood. If you have never heard of sacha inchi, it’s about time that you do!
Sacha inchi, whose scientific name is Plukenetia volubilis L., is a plant native to the Andean region of South America, particularly in high-altitude rain forests. It is commonly known as the “Peruvian peanut,” and its producers are typically the indigenous Ashaninka people living in the central jungle region of Peru.
Consumed as part of the indigenous Peruvian diet for thousands of years, sacha inchi was not cultivated, but rather gathered from wild plants, and then roasted or ground and mixed with maize meal and peppers. Today, sacha inchi continues to provide for the indigenous people of the Andes both as a dietary staple and as an income source, with the seeds of this Peruvian plant being shipped around the globe.
Sacha Inchi Nutritional Information
Sacha inchi has caught the attention of nutritionists, agronomists, and food researchers alike because it has a series of unusual and beneficial nutritional properties.
While there is still much research that needs to be conducted with regards to the health benefits related to the sacha inchi, initial studies have characterized the nutritional composition of sacha inchi to understand what it can contribute to the diet.
Sacha inchi has a relatively high protein content at 33%, and the quality of protein is equal to or better than other nuts and seeds. Some amino acids (protein building blocks) are actually higher in sacha inchi than in the peanut, cottonseed and sunflower seed proteins. If completely digested, sacha inchi would only be deficient in two amino acids to be considered a complete protein, while it was well above in other amino acid quantity.
Sacha inchi has an unusually high oil content (49%). It is precisely the oil quality and content that has really caught the attention of the global market. It has the highest oil quantity among those most studied: soybean, peanut, and cottonseed. It is exceptionally high in linolenic acid, which, together with vitamin E (an antioxidant), is quite stable and can be stored for long periods of time without the risk of going rancid.
In addition to linolenic acid, it also contains linoleic fatty acids, which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to promote health in a number of ways, including supporting heart health, lowering cholesterol, and reducing inflammation, among others. The Omega-3 and Omega-6 ratio is close to 1 to 1, which is the ideal fatty acid ratio for humans.
Overall, sacha inchi has steadily increased in demand worldwide because of its nutritional density, as a source of plant protein, and as a source of balanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Organizations and companies around the world are also looking to the plant as a potential way to provide employment opportunities for indigenous populations in South America, as well as to isolate certain compounds that may be beneficial in medicine and in the food industry. Today, you can find whole sacha inchi nuts at the grocery store, but you’ll also find the powder in our Organic Protein blend – click here to learn more.