Sacha inchi, the Inca peanut, is native to the Caribbean and parts of South America. This plant grows large, unique-looking green fruits with six points that are cultivated for their large seeds.
People use the seeds in multiple ways. One of the most common ways of preparing sacha inchi seed is roasting and eating it, though it can also be ground into a powder and added to various dishes. You can also extract the oil from the seed and use it for cooking or for the skin and hair.
One of the impressive things about sacha inchi is its high amount of polyunsaturated or "good" fats. About 82 percent of the total fat content of the seed is polyunsaturated. One clinical trial evaluated how sacha inchi affects the impact of lipids after a high-fat meal. The results indicate that sacha inchi can improve the immediate effects of a high-fat meal, depending on the individual's metabolic status.
This trial suggests that sacha inchi is effective for preventing or treating cardiovascular diseases, but more studies are needed.
The effects of sacha inchi on gut health are also promising. One study shows that oral consumption of sacha inchi alters gut microbes. Specifically, it can reverse dysbiosis, an imbalance or maladaptation of the flora in the gut that experts believe causes GI issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Sacha inchi is also a rich source of plant proteins. One study shows that sacha inchi flour is comparable to soy flour. Both have balanced amino acids; in fact, sacha inchi flour has a higher content of some amino acids, including arginine, glycine, and tryptophan.
Although plant protein has an incomplete amino acid profile, unlike animal protein, it has benefits too, including protecting against chronic degenerative diseases and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
Sacha inchi is also rich in antioxidants, including carotenes, phytosterols, polyphenols, and tocopherols. The effects of these and other antioxidants on disease have been studied for several decades. In lab experiments, antioxidants can stabilize free radicals, preventing them from causing cellular damage.
People who eat a diet high in antioxidants are also less likely to develop stroke, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, though it is not clear if antioxidant consumption is the cause or if people who eat diets high in antioxidants are more active and make healthier choices in general.
Research has also evaluated the effects of sacha inchi oil on dry skin. One study showed that it was just as effective as olive oil for treating dryness and improving moisture content in the skin. While sacha inchi oil does not have antimicrobial effects, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can calm and soothe inflammation.
Sacha inchi may also help control blood sugar spikes after meals. One randomized trial compared the effects of eating breakfasts high in saturated fat with or without 15 ml of Sacha inchi oil. Researchers took blood samples after one hour and again after four hours, and the results showed that ingesting sacha inchi oil with the meal improved insulin sensitivity afterwards.
Sacha inchi is nutritionally dense. It is high in healthy fats, fiber, and proteins, making it a great food for weight loss.
The fiber content, in particular, is helpful for people trying to lose weight. Research shows that simply eating 30 grams of fiber a day encourages weight loss.
Since sacha inchi has a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as antioxidants, it may improve brain function. One study looked at brain MRIs to evaluate whether omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids affect brain aging. The results show that these fatty acids can help the brain cope with the changes of aging.
Side effects of sacha inchi are minimal, but they can occur. Eating large quantities too often can cause anti-nutritional effects, meaning it can block the absorption of essential nutrients, but roasting the nuts before eating seems to mitigate these effects. Sacha inchi also contains alkaloids, which can cause GI problems in large quantities.
There are many ways to use sacha inchi. Roasted and crushed sacha inchi nuts and oil are all readily available. Roasted seeds are often salted and eaten right out of the bag, and powders go nicely in smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt. Dried sacha inchi leaves make a great tea, too, though the leaves are not as potent as the seeds.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.