Superfoods: Maca, Mesquite, Carob, Lucuma

The term "SUPERFOOD" refers to foods that are uniquely rich in micronutrients vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body’s cells from oxidation by free radical damage, thus helping prevent inflammation and disease. This is why antioxidant-dense foods are linked to numerous health benefits. Leafy green vegetables and dark colored berries are well known for their high micronutrients content, and now foods like Maca, Mesquite, Carob, and Lucuma are gaining popularity. These products can be used as ‘booster foods’, to supplement a healthy, whole-foods diet with an added ‘boost’ of nutrients. These four foods all share something in common: they grow in especially challenging climates and conditions. In order to survive and thrive, they have developed protective phytonutrients (phytochemicals). These natural chemicals are also responsible for the nutrient-density of the food produced from the plants, which we eat! I had the pleasure of sampling and reviewing Prana’s Maca, Mesquite, Carob, and Lucuma. Being in powder form, these versatile products are easy to add into your daily meals and snacks. Here are some of the ways you can enjoy them:

• Mix a tsp or two into smoothies, sprinkle on your breakfast cereal (hot or cold), or yoghurt

• Use in baked goods like bread, muffins, or homemade granola

• Mix into raw desserts or use to flavor roasted nuts and seeds

• Blend into hot drinks like tea, or in replacement of hot chocolate

• Use to flavor homemade nut-milks

• Add to sauces and marinades

Calcium-rich Carob. Made in Italy.

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is made from the fruit pods of a large tropical leguminous evergreen tree. Originating in Egypt, Carob has been enjoyed as a natural sweetener for at least 4000 years, before sugar itself was introduced. In fact, the Greeks called carob “Egyptian fig” due to its natural sweet taste. The pods are ground into a sweet, fine powder, while the seeds are used to make Locust bean gum thickener.

Carob is a source of:

- Dietary fiber (supporting intestinal health and the regulation of blood sugar)
- Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper
- Vitamin B2
- Amino acids/Protein
- Polyphenol antioxidants (anti-inflammatory properties!)

Besides the fact that carob has a similar taste, color and texture as cacao, it is preferred over cacao because:

Carob is free from caffeine or theobromine stimulants that are present in cacao
Does not contain phenylethylamine, the substance in cacao that can - Releases sugars more slowly into the blood than cacao, making it a healthier choice for sugar-sensitive people
Lower in sodium and higher in potassium compared to cacao (helps control blood pressure)
Richer in calcium and it does not contain oxalic acid (found in cacao), a compound that prevents Calcium from being absorbed
Luscious Lucuma. Peru.

Lúcuma (Sapotaceae) is an exotic fruit that comes from a flowering plant native to Peru. Known as “Gold of the Incas”, or “eggfruit”, the fruit is dried and ground into a powder. Lucuma has a delicious sweet, vanilla-like flavor, which makes it a popular ice cream flavor in South America. Despite being sweet in taste, Lucuma is lower on the glycemic index, making it a healthier choice for sugar-sensitive people.

Lucuma is a source of:

- Immune-supporting Beta-carotene (which gives the fruit its bright orange color!)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin-mood boosting vitamin)
- Iron, Calcium, and Phosphorus
- Amino acids/protein
- Dietary fiber

Magical Maca. Made in Peru.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a tuber vegetable that grows in the Andean Mountains of Peru. The ancient Incas first domesticated Maca approximately 2000 years ago, traditionally used as food and for its hormone balancing and libido boosting affects. Also known as the “Peruvian ginseng", Maca is said to increase energy and stamina. The alkaloids found in Maca are responsible for it’s affect on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which regulate hormones. As a natural adaptogen, Maca supports the endocrine system and helps the body in adapt to stress. The maca root is dried and ground into a powder or flour and added to breads, warm cereals, and beverages.

Maca is a source of:

- Complex carbohydrates and protein (offering sustained energy!)
- Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Manganese, and Zinc
- Immune-boosting Vitamin C
- B Vitamins and Vitamin E
- Dietary fiber


Note: It is recommended to use only 1-2 teaspoons of Maca per day and then stop consuming it for a week or so each month. Maca contains glucosinolates, which may cause goiters if consumed in high doses.

Mineral-dense Mesquite. Made in Argentina.

Like Carob, Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) comes from a pod-bearing drought-resistant shrub, a member of the leguminosae (legume) family. It grows in the dry climates of South-Western US, Mexico, and South America. Traditionally, Native American tribes used Mesquite as both food and medicine, to sooth the stomach, and treat skin infections. Mesquite has a sweet, slightly smoky flavor, which works well in both sweet and savory recipes like marinades, sauces, soups and chili, bread, or baked goods.

Mesquite is a source of:

- Calcium and magnesium, supporting the muscular-skeletal system
- Potassium, Iron, and Zinc
- Amino acid lysine, which help with the absorption of calcium
- Soluble fiber
- Protein and complex carbohydrates (perfect in pre or post workout smoothie!)

NOT YOUR GRANDMA'S CHOCOLATE MILK

  • 3 cups pure water 
  • ½ cup almonds, soaked overnight 
  • ½ cup hemp seeds 
  • 1 tsp carob powder 
  • 1 tsp lucuma powder 
  • 1 tsp maca powder 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • A few drops of liquid stevia or a tablespoon of maple syrup for added sweetness

Drain and rinse the almonds. In a high-speed blender, mix all the ingredients and blend until smooth. In a cheesecloth or nut-milk bag, strain the mixture to remove the leftover nut particles. This is a fresh, healthier, delicious alternative to chocolate milk with protein, vitamins, minerals like calcium, plus essential fatty acids (Omega 3s and 6s), and fiber! TIP: Heat this milk up and you have a warming, sweet version of hot chocolate.

SWEET & SPICY SAVORY SAUCE

  • 2 chipotle peppers, soaked in 1/2 cup water overnight (keep soaking water) 
  • 1 cup tomato paste (organic is best) 
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, soaked in water (keep soaking water) 
  • 1 small red onion, chopped 
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste (remove pits) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses (rich in iron!) 
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (cleansing/detoxifying) 
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 
  • 1 tsp mesquite powder 
  • 1 tsp lucuma powder 
  • 1 tsp maca powder 
  • 1 tsp carob powder

Add all the ingredients including the soaking water from the chipotle peppers and dates to a blender. Blend until smooth and keep in the fridge to use as a sauce, marinade, or dip!

HEALTHY SOFT-SERVE ICE CREAM
(Yeah it’s possible!)

  • 2 large ripe bananas (not over-ripe!) 
  • 1 tsp Lucuma powder 
  • 1 tsp Maca powder 
  • 1 tsp Carob powder 
  • 1 tsp ground vanilla

Peel and cut the bananas into small pieces, place in a ziploc bag in the freezer for 1-3 hours. (If you leave them overnight, they will be too hard and could damage your food processor). Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth and creamy. Enjoy right away!

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