Superfood 101: Sacha Inchi Seeds Are Full Of Essential Fatty Acids

For thousands of years, indigenous peoples of the Peruvian portion of the Amazon Basin in South America have cultivated an amazing plant that is a powerhouse of nutrients. The seeds from Sacha Inchi are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A, and fiber. Sacha Inchi seeds and oil have been used for thousands of years in South America and are now being recognized in other countries for their remarkable nutritional value.

Sacha Inchi seeds come from the inner pods of the Plukenetia volubility plant, a perennial plant that grows as a vine, often reaching heights of 6-7 feet. The fruit of the Plukenetia volubility plant grow into a pod with 4-6 lobes. Inside the distinct lobes are the seeds that are used for eating and for deriving oil.

Studies have shown that Sacha Inchi is high in essential fatty acids, tocopherols (vitamin E), and carotenoids (vitamin A), and it is an excellent source of promoting phytochemicals within the body.

Two of the essential fatty acids necessary for optimal health, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained directly from plant-based foods; these fatty acids are used to build omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are necessary to help the body fight inflammation, reduce heart disease, reduce cancer risks, and maintain normal functionality of organ health. Sacha Inchi seeds are rich in these essential fatty acids.

Vitamin E (tocopherol) is a major antioxidant that can help the body defend itself against cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. The human body cannot synthesize its own vitamin E and must obtain it by ingesting foods that have tocopherol in them. Vegetable oils and seeds are a primary source of vitamin E and Sacha Inchi is rich in vitamin E.

Many of us know that carrots and other yellow and orange foods like egg yolks are a great source of vitamin A (carotenoids.)  And Sacha Inchi seeds and oil are also a great source of vitamin A. Carotenoids are helpful in the prevention of eye disease as well as having antioxidant qualities helping to fight inflammation and reduce the risk of many diseases. In order for carotenoids to work optimally in the body, they must be consumed with fats—Sacha Inchi seeds have essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids built into their seed system, making these seeds a valuable source of vitamin A.

In addition, Sacha Inchi seeds are very high in protein and are often ground into a powder form that is easily digestible. 

Because Sacha Inchi cultivation has been little known to countries outside of Peru, the demand for the seeds and oils has been restricted to locals who use it for themselves and their families. Now that major retailers in the United States and other countries are beginning to carry Sacha Inchi seeds for consumers, the demand has outgrown the supply available for sale.

Local Peruvians are beginning to collaborate with OxFam America and its South American partners to help indigenous farmers find suitable, cultivatable land to grow Sacha Inchi into a commercial cash crop that can bring a much needed economic burst of growth to impoverished farmers. This will help many communities prosper and thrive, giving the people time to grow other businesses within the community, such as weavings, local made soaps, and local souvenirs.

So, what do Sacha Inchi seeds taste like? Many consumers say that they taste similar to toasted soybeans, and they have been described as buttery and nutty. Many companies that sell in local health food retail stores have flavored roasted Sacha Inchi seeds, such as Tamari Sacha Inchi seeds. Other sources provide Sacha Inchi in a powder form that can be used as a protein supplement.

In order to preserve their omega-3 values, Sacha Inchi seeds must be roasted at a low temperature, as omega-3s are highly sensitive to heat. When purchasing these products make sure and read the labels to ensure that the seeds have not been over-roasted, thus killing the live enzymes. These low roasted Sacha Inchi seeds could be suitable for a raw food diet.

So much nutrition and taste in such a little seed! How wonderful that in the United States we are now able to purchase Sacha Inchi seeds to boost our nutritional health. And by purchasing the products from a source committed to helping indigenous farmers in Peru, you are helping improve their economy as well.