Increasingly, sacha inchi, also known as Inca peanuts or mountain peanuts, is carving out a niche in the health and wellness sector of Southeast Asia, including Singapore. Indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountains, sacha inchi is valued for its rich nutritional content and potential health benefits. So, what can sacha inchi bring to the table in our Southeast Asian diet? Let's find out.
Origin and History of Sacha Inchi
The sacha inchi plant (Plukenetia volubilis) is a perennial native to South America, specifically the rainforests of the Amazon and the Andes Mountains. Having been part of the diet of indigenous populations for thousands of years, it has earned its status as a superfood.
The hallmark of sacha inchi's nutritional profile lies in its exceptionally high omega-3 fatty acid content, presenting a promising plant-based alternative to fish oils, which are traditionally a significant part of the diet in Southeast Asia. Besides, sacha inchi offers a considerable amount of protein, making it an ideal source for vegetarians and vegans. Its nutrient lineup also includes fibre, antioxidants, vitamin A, and essential minerals like calcium, contributing to its diversified nutritional profile.
Health Benefits of Sacha Inchi
Cardiovascular Health and Sacha Inchi: The omega-3 fatty acids in sacha inchi can contribute to heart health, an important consideration given the high rates of heart diseases in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries. They assist in reducing bad cholesterol levels (LDL), increasing good cholesterol (HDL), and may potentially lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Mental Health: Research has demonstrated the positive impacts of omega-3 fatty acids on brain function. They aid cognitive health and may lower the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Digestive Health: Sacha inchi, with its high fibre content, can contribute to digestive health and potentially assist in weight management by promoting a feeling of fullness.
Bone and Joint Health: The calcium and other minerals found in sacha inchi can support bone and joint health, beneficial given the aging population in many Southeast Asian countries.
Weight Management: With its high protein and fibre content, sacha inchi could support weight management efforts, aligning well with the health-conscious trend observed in Southeast Asia.
Skin Health: The antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in sacha inchi can enhance skin health, crucial in the hot and humid climate of Southeast Asia that often causes skin issues.
Eye Health: Vitamin A in sacha inchi contributes to maintaining good vision and eye health.
Other Potential Benefits: Preliminary research suggests that sacha inchi may also have beneficial effects on inflammation, diabetes, and immune support.
As a Whole Food: The seeds of sacha inchi, when roasted, can be enjoyed directly. Their unique, slightly nutty flavour can be an exciting addition to Southeast Asian cuisine.
Sacha Inchi Oil: The oil derived from sacha inchi seeds is a flexible ingredient in the kitchen. It can be used in salads, stir-fries, or baking, adding a nutritious twist to familiar Southeast Asian dishes. Note that Sacha Inchi oil should be used at low temperatures to prevent degradation of omega-3 fatty acids.
Sacha Inchi Powder: Sacha inchi in powder form can be a healthy addition to your smoothies, soups, or local dishes like porridge.
While sacha inchi is generally safe, overconsumption might lead to digestive issues due to its high fibre content. Those with nut allergies should also exercise caution. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions or those on medication.
The rich nutritional content of sacha inchi and its potential health benefits make it a valuable addition to the diverse dietary landscape of Singapore and the wider Southeast Asian region. Whether you're a vegetarian seeking a reliable plant-based omega-3 source or someone wishing to enrich their diet, sacha inchi might be the superfood for you.
The sacha inchi plant (Plukenetia volubilis) is a perennial native to South America, specifically the rainforests of the Amazon and the Andes Mountains, sacha inchi is valued for its rich nutritional content and potential health benefits. So, what can sacha inchi bring to the table in our Southeast Asian diet? Let's find out.