Most commonly grown in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Chile and Ecuador, lucuma fruit is roughly the size of a baseball and boasting bright yellow orange fruit that is mildly sweet and delicious -- somewhat sweet potato, peach-like in flavor.
Because fresh lucuma fruit has a somewhat dry texture, the fresh fruit is rarely eaten by itself. However, it is a popular sweetener for beverages – and especially for ice cream. In the US, lucuma fruit is most readily available in freeze dried powder form.
What is lucuma good for?
Lucuma fruit contains moderate levels of protein and iron as well as potentially health-supporting antioxidants including xanthophylls – the carotenoid that gives lucuma fruit its yellow orangish color and may help provide eye-health benefits. But what sets lucuma apart from other healthy fruits is that it can also be used as a delicious, nutritious and natural sweetener, but with much less sugar than more common sweeteners.
And, because lucuma contains a good amount of starch and fiber, lucuma added as a sweetener to meals may help us 'feel fuller', faster and longer. This can be an important benefit for anyone on a weight-loss, weight management diet.
Just mix a teaspoon or two (lucuma powder contains just 1/2 g of sugar per teaspoon) into unsweetened yogurt, beverages, baked goods, or hot cereal. Or sprinkle lucuma powder over peanut butter in sandwiches or onto root vegetables such as cooked yam or squash.
What does lucuma taste like?
The taste of lucuma is most often described as being similar to sweet potato, butterscotch or caramel. Personally, I think it tastes more like papaya. In any case, lucuma adds a rich, mellow sweetness when mixed into other, more bland foods. (And, when I am really craving a sweet snack, I'll eat a small teaspoon of lucuma powder straight!)
If you've tried stevia as a healthy, natural, alternative sweetener but were put off by its unique aftertaste, lucuma may be a delicious option for you.
Does lucuma raise blood sugar levels?
Unlike honey, white or brown sugar, and high fructose corn syrup which can raise blood sugar levels quickly after eating, lucuma has a low glycemic index (GCI) rating. This means that it won't cause a similar spike in blood sugar levels less. That's because lucuma contains 1) only ¼ the sugar of table sugar and 2) a significant amount of starch and both soluble and non-soluble fibers which the body digests and absorbs more slowly. So, lucuma may be a safe, healthy and delicious sweetener option for anyone with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure who's trying to manage or lower their blood sugar levels.