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Ingredient highlight: What is sacha inchi?

by Tanya Kwiez |

Sacha inchi, (Plukenetia volubilis) is a plant that is native to certain parts of South America and the Caribbean. It grows in the highlands of Peru and has been used as a food source by indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest for thousands of years. The plant produces a fruit that is famously used for its large, edible seeds, which are roasted and often ground into a fine powder and added to plant-based protein powders, as well as being versatile enough to add into smoothies, baked goods, or energy bites.

It’s a plant-based complete protein source

Sacha inchi contains all nine essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein source. It is also easily absorbed and as such has a high biological value (BV) ranking. This ranking means the protein in sacha inchi is readily digested and can be used to support the body quickly.

What’s more, the high amounts of BCAA (branch chain amino acids) it contains also helps to reduce the breakdown of lean muscle mass, helping to preserve the muscles.

It boasts an impressive nutrient profile

Sacha inchi seeds are not only rich in protein. These wonder seeds also contain fibre and healthy fats, in particular large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. There are very few plant-based sources of essential omega-3 fatty acids (examples include microalgae and chia seeds).

Fatty acid research on sacha inchi has shown that its oil (44% linolenic acid) has levels comparable to flax, one of the best-known sources of plant-based omega 3. Omega-3’s help the body to absorb calcium, restore joint mobility, improve brain and heart health and promote a healthy inflammation response (8).

The sacha inchi seed also contains other crucial micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc (1).

What’s more, the sacha inchi seed also contains antioxidants and phenolic compounds that have been studied for their ability to decrease inflammation and protect against chronic disease (2).

It’s been clinically studied for its health benefits

This seed has attracted some serious scientific interest due to its potentially powerful health benefits. Some research suggests that sacha inchi could support healthy cholesterol levels, enhance digestive health and even assist in weight management.

A small study showed that after taking 10–15 mL of sacha inchi seed oil every day for 4 months, the 30 participants had improvements in blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL/ HDL cholesterol levels (3).

In another study, when 42 adults, took sacha inchi oil with a high fat meal, it prevented cholesterol level increases as well as inflammation. (The outcomes also depended on the individuals’ metabolic status) (4).

Some studies suggest that sacha inchi could improve digestive health with research showing that adding sacha inchi oil to a high fat diet helped to balance the beneficial bacteria in the intestines (5.) Another study showed similar benefits with an extract from the seed’s hulls improving the health of the gut microbiome (7).

Research has also shown that the seeds nutritional profile may also assist in weight management. As sacha inchi is a rich complete protein source this can help to decrease food cravings and support appetite control to increase weight loss (6).

Activated Nutrients: Tone Up

Activated Nutrients Tone Up is a coconut plant-based protein powder that contains sprouted and bio-fermented golden pea, sacha inchi, quinoa and amaranth, providing a complete amino acid profile. It has been scientifically designed to help increase dietary protein intake and feelings of fullness, and support muscle growth, while digestive enzymes and probiotics work together to support gut health and weight management.

1. Dah-Sol Kim & Nami Joo, (2019). Nutritional composition of Sacha inchi (Plukenetia Volubilis L.) as affected by different cooking methods, Int Journ of Food Prop;22:1,1235-1241, 
2. Chirinos R, Zuloeta G, Pedreschi R, Mignolet E, Larondelle Y, Campos D., (2013). Sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis): a seed source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, tocopherols, phytosterols, phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity. Food Chem;141(3):1732-9. 
3. Gonzales GF, Gonzales C. A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study on acceptability, safety and efficacy of oral administration of sacha inchi oil (Plukenetia volubilis L.) in adult human subjects. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Mar;65:168-76.
4. Alayón AN, Ortega Ávila JG, Echeverri Jiménez I, (2019). Metabolic status is related to the effects of adding of sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L.) oil on postprandial inflammation and lipid profile: Randomized, crossover clinical trial. J Food Biochem;43(2):e12703.
5. Li P , Huang J , Xiao N , Cai X , Yang Y , Deng J , Zhang LH , Du B, (2020). Sacha inchi oil alleviates gut microbiota dysbiosis and improves hepatic lipid dysmetabolism in high-fat diet-fed rats. Food Funct;11(7):5827-5841.
6. Leidy, Heather J, (2014). “Increased dietary protein as a dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity.” Missouri medicine;111,1: 54-8.
7. Li P, Cai X, Xiao N, Ma X, Zeng L, Zhang LH, Xie L, Du B, (2020). Sacha inchi
(Plukenetia volubilis L.) shell extract alleviates hypertension in association with the
regulation of gut microbiota. Food Funct;11(9):8051-8067.
8. Maurer NE, Hatta-Sakoda B, Pascual-Chagman G, Rodriguez-Saona LE, (2012). Characterization and authentication of a novel vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids, sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L.) oil. Food Chem;134(2):1173-80.