Are Inca Peanuts a Super Food?

After celebrity TV expert, Dr. Oz endorsed them as a so-called “super food” in late 2010, inca peanuts, also known as “sacha inchi,” became widely available on the internet and in health food stores.

They’ve been touted as cures for everything from weight loss to hyperactivity. The problem with endorsements, like those from Dr. Oz and others on television, is that they are high on hype and low on important details.

Network TV simply doesn’t allow enough time for detailed analysis of pros and cons, and few viewers are willing to stretch their attention spans enough to take in the details in anyway.

But maybe, stepping back from the commercial glare, those interested in this potentially beneficial food can benefit from some of the facts.

Having read about super diets and super foods for decades, from the wonders of Vermont folk medicine and vitamin C in the 1970s to the more recent low fat and high protein claims, I’m inclined to dismiss all all of them, especially those promoted by celebrities.

We’ve learned that there are no super foods, just some that make more dietary sense than others. Plus, the focus on specific foods disregards our awareness that it’s our full diet that matters, not just individual components.

As a reality check, it may help you to be aware that in Peru, where inca peanuts are grown and have been eaten for thousands of years, obesity levels are lower than they are in the U.S., as they are in most places, but no better than average worldwide.

In life expectancy, Peruvians are, again, just average, better than some but not nearly as long as many others.

So, What’s The Big Deal With Inca Peanuts?

What seems to stir enthusiasm over inca peanuts is that some of the most significant nutritional components match up with those that have been promoted in fad diets in the past decade.

Doctor Oz, for example, in calling them a super food says they “..are loaded with vitamin E, and have 3 times the amount of omega-3s and twice the fiber as walnuts.”

What goes unsaid, probably because it detracts from the “super food” image and especially Oz’s declaring it the year’s best “weight-loss snack,” is that the single ounce serving he uses includes a whopping 190 calories or about 10% of the recommended calorie intake for most women – for a snack! Some diet food.

Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber are all worthwhile nutrients, but there’s not enough of any of them in a single ounce serving to make a serious dietary impact.

More important, a healthy diet requires dozens of nutrients. Concentrating on a few and designating “super foods” ignores the fact that, in the absence of an otherwise healthy diet, what you get from inca peanuts is relatively useless.

Inca Peanuts Craze

Dr. Oz’s careless endorsements, aimed at keeping idle TV viewers satisfied with easy answers, are better, though, than much of what we read online.

Still, almost to a web page, each one touting the benefits of inca peanuts, no matter how outlandish, cite Oz’s endorsement as their own.

One web propagandist calls them “the miracle peanut,” then goes on to add:

“It helps lower the blood pressure and cholesterol level, reduces blood sugar, better calcium absorption and maintains bone density, relieves symptoms of depression, improves mood and problems with hyperactivity. Additionally Sacha Inchi is widely used in the cosmetic industry. The oil restructures and protects the skin, hair and nails.”

Health food claims are not required to meet the standards of truthfulness and fact demanded of drug marketers.

A Final Word On Inca Peanuts

Inca peanuts, sacha inchi, are fine foods with good nutritional content. Enjoy them. They’re certainly better than most commercial snacks.

But don’t be misled into believing they are some magic dietary bullet that can chase other bad habits away. They aren’t a cure for anything, but they can certainly play a positive role in your healthy everyday diet.

The best things you can do for staying fit and healthy are the same ones I talked about in my article about personal cures for cancer. Eat a diet based on plants, but not too much; stay physically active – your body was designed to keep moving; cherish your friends and your family even more so; make it your practice to be happy because only you know or can figure out what it takes.

So, turn off that television and munch on a small bag of inca peanuts while you take a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll be glad you did.

David Stone

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