Native to the highlands of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, sacha inchi’s role as a health-boosting food dates back thousands of years to various indigenous groups in South America, including the Incas— but it’s only just beginning to gain the notoriety it deserves.
Sacha inchi predominantly grows in the mineral-rich soil of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, and it has been cultivated for medicinal and culinary purposes by the indigenous people of South America for over 3,000 years.
Sacha inchi seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and are jam-packed with nutrients—omega-3, 6, and 9, phytosterols, and antioxidants to name a few. They’re also a great source of complete, plant-based protein. Sacha inchi may even help reduce cholesterol, aid in weight loss and muscle gains, balance mood, and combat inflammation, thanks to its unique combo of nutrients.
Here’s a look at some of the most exciting potential health benefits of sacha inchi (and its various nutritional components).
5 health benefits supported by sacha inchi.
1 Improved workouts and muscle composition.
Ditching animal protein in favor of sustainable, plant-based options like sacha inchi doesn’t have to compromise your workouts and body composition goals. For one, sacha inchi is very high in protein, with sacha inchi flour being approximately 55% protein by weight. It’s also considered a “complete” protein, meaning, it contains adequate proportions of all 9 essential amino acids your body needs to function optimally and aid in processes like muscle protein synthesis—when your body produces protein to repair and strengthen muscles after exercise. In fact, sacha inchi has been shown to rival soy protein in terms of protein bioavailability and composition.
Sacha inchi also contains a decent amount of iron, which is important for the production of myoglobin—a protein found in skeletal muscle cells. Essentially, myoglobin serves as a local oxygen “reservoir,” providing oxygen to muscles during periods of intense workouts when blood oxygen delivery isn’t sufficient.
2 Balanced blood sugar and reduced appetite.
In addition to protein, sacha inchi contains quite a bit of fiber—and together, these two nutrients are an absolute power pair when it comes to keeping you full and satisfied so you don’t overeat.
Compared to the simple, quickly digested carbs you’d find in processed foods like white bread or sugary juices, fiber and protein stay in your digestive system longer and help prevent the drastic spikes and dips in blood sugar that can lead to intense feelings of hunger and low energy. High-protein, high-fiber diets have also been associated with improved weight and fat loss compared to standard dietary recommendations.
Sacha inchi is high in tryptophan as well, an amino acid that serves as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. You may be familiar with serotonin as it relates to mood, but it also plays a role in suppressing appetite by activating various neurons and receptors in the brain.
3 Improved mood and sleep.
Thanks (again) to sacha inchi’s high tryptophan levels, this superfood may help regulate mood and sleep as well. Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is sometimes called the “happy chemical” due to its prominent role regulating mood and behavior. Low serotonin is associated with mental health disorders like depression. Serotonin also happens to be a precursor for the hormone melatonin, which regulates your body’s sleep-wake cycles to help ensure a good night’s rest.
4 Reduced “bad” cholesterol, increased “good” cholesterol.
Sacha inchi has been shown to improve cholesterol levels in preliminary research. In a 2014 study, participants were given either sacha inchi oil or sunflower oil every day for four months. Both groups experienced a reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol, but only the sacha inchi group experienced an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol. Sacha inchi contains a high percentage of omega-3 fats and various phytosterols (plant compounds that help reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines), which may be responsible for this effect.
5 Decreased oxidative stress and inflammation.
Sacha inchi is loaded with nutrients that quel inflammation and counter oxidative stress—processes that can drive joint pain, premature aging, and a variety of chronic diseases. Not only does sacha inchi contain a much higher percentage of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than most other nuts and seeds, but it’s also rich in vitamins and micronutrients with antioxidant properties such as vitamin E, vitamin A, and gallic acid. These nutrients exert their healing potential throughout the body, including the brain. For example, gallic acid has been shown to help reduce neural damage and improve cognitive functioning, thanks to its ability to scavenge pro-inflammatory free radicals.
Why sacha inchi is considered a superfood.
While sacha inchi is most commonly touted for its high protein and omega-3 content, it’s also a good source of antioxidants (including vitamins A and E, and gallic acid), calcium, iron, fiber, plant phytosterols, and the amino acid tryptophan, which happens to be an important precursor to serotonin. More studies are needed to firmly establish its health benefits, but sacha inchi’s concentration of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other powerful plant compounds justify its growing popularity as a nutrient-dense “superfood.”
Bottom line on sacha inchi.
Sacha inchi is an ancient superfood rich in vitamins, minerals, complete protein, and essential fatty acids that can be tricky to find elsewhere—especially in a predominantly plant-based diet. While the existing body of research on sacha inchi is still a bit preliminary, it shows promise for improving cholesterol levels, curbing appetite, balancing mood, supporting quality sleep, and curbing inflammation.