Lucuma (written lúcuma in Spanish) is an Andean fruit that grows in Peru, Ecuador and Chile. It has been around since before the Incas and it’s still widely consumed in the region. Listen to the correct pronunciation in this link.
Lucuma is generally the size of an orange or grapefruit, although there are also smaller ones. The fruit has a thin green skin that splits open when ripe. The flesh is yellow-orange, sweet, firm and starchy. It has a few round medium-sized brown seeds.
In Peru, the fruit can be found fresh (mainly during summer months), frozen and powdered (also known as “harina de lúcuma). The availability of the powder seems to have diminished with time, perhaps due to exports.
Lucuma is normally not eaten by itself, but mostly used in smoothies and desserts. It pairs well with dairy and chocolate. It is also used in cocktails and confectionery.
Below are a couple of recipes using the powdered version:
Nutrients in lucuma
Fresh lucuma is high in carbohydrate and contains some fibre and vitamins. Below is a comparison between the fresh and powdered versions (1).
How does fresh lucuma compare to apples, bananas and oranges (i.e. the most commonly eaten fruits in Australia)? It has more carbohydrate, less fibre and less vitamin C per 100 grams, as shown in the table below (1, 2).
Of course, if you live in Australia you will most likely come across the powder and not the fresh fruit. See table below for a comparison to other powders that are somewhat common ingredients in things like smoothies: cacao, beetroot and acai powder (1, 3).
Lucuma also contains a high amount of phenolic compounds compared to other Peruvian fruits (4).
The phenolics in lucuma have antioxidant activity. It may also help manage type 2 diabetes due to its inhibitory activity on the enzyme alpha-glucosidase (4).
There is also preliminary research suggesting that the specific fatty acids in lucuma seed oil may improve skin wounds and skin inflammatory conditions (5).
As other exotic fruits, lucuma has received a bit of attention lately. Many brands in Australia offer lucuma powder and I’ve seen it offered as an ingredient for smoothies in Sydney. There is also a brand of popcorn that has lucuma powder among other “superfoods” although they have spelled it wrong in their website and packaging. I have seen this misspelling elsewhere in the web as well. See screenshots below.
- Fundación Universitaria Iberoamericana. Base de Datos Internacional de Composición de Alimentos. 2017 [Available from: https://www.composicionnutricional.com/alimentos%5D.
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. 2014 [Available from: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au].
- US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current: September 2015 [Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/%5D.
- Pinto Mda S, Ranilla LG, Apostolidis E, Lajolo FM, Genovese MI, Shetty K. Evaluation of antihyperglycemia and antihypertension potential of native Peruvian fruits using in vitro models. Journal of medicinal food. 2009;12(2):278-91.
- Rojo LE, Villano CM, Joseph G, Schmidt B, Shulaev V, Shuman JL, et al. Wound-healing properties of nut oil from Pouteria lucuma. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(3):185-95.