Sacha Inchi, nut-like seeds from South America are touted to be a great source of good fats and protein

What is Sacha Inchi?

This seed, eaten-like-a-nut, is also known as the Inca peanut is being touted as the next big superfood. According to a 2012 study by the Ohio State University in the US and Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru, Sacha Inchi oil has a fatty acid composition similar in omega-3 content to flaxseeds, but double flax in omega-6. If this holds true, then this South American seed has the highest levels of plant-based good fats, an even better source than the nutrient-rich salmon. It’s a little bigger than a peanut and a great way for vegans and vegetarians to load up on essential fats. This legume has a star-shaped fruit containing oval seeds, which have high levels of protein.

Apart from being heart healthy, some other studies indicate that Sacha Inchi may be effective as a weight loss food due to its unusually high content of tryptophan (an amino acid essential to the production of serotonin that regulates appetite), so that means, fewer food cravings! However, these are mostly all Peruvian studies, and need validation from internationally-recognised food and nutrition agencies.

How should I eat them?

It’s a seed, but can be eaten as is, just like nuts. They are available in salted and flavoured form or toss them into salads. In the West, recently, there have been protein powders made of this seed due to its nutrition profile, while oils of these seeds are also available.


What do the experts think?

Mumbai-based nutritionist Naini Setalvad has heard about Sacha Inchi, “but there is not enough research in our hands for me to comment on the credentials of this seed-like-nut. But honestly, why would you want to pay big bucks to eat this imported food, when right here in India you have flaxseeds, which have been indigenous to the country for over 5,000 years. And, there are other nuts like walnuts too that deliver on the omega-3 promise. It’s best to look at locally-available produce for your nutritional needs.”

Red flags: Too much of anything is not good. And Omega-3 is no different. “If Sacha Inchi does have the nutritional value that has been claimed off late, then having too much of it will lead to acidity. Too much omega-3 upsets the pH balance and could lead to indigestion and bloating,” Setalvad concludes.

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