Rainforest Superfood: Koo-poo-ah-soo

The superfood that beats açai.
by Amy Vergin

There is an Amazon superfood that Shamans used to bless and give to pregnant women who suffered from a difficult birth, or newlyweds that yearned for a child. Other natives would be given the beans (seeds) of the fruit to cure their abdominal pain. Even nutritional food experts these days say the fruit will overshadow the commotion surrounding açai berries. This mysterious fruit is healthier for you, and is easier to grow with less impact on the rainforest. Why have we not heard of this superfood until recently? And what on earth could it be? Cupuaçu.

It looks like…

Cupuaçu, or Theobroma grandiflorum, has also been referred to as the “food of the gods.” Perhaps you recognize that cocoa is also part of the Theobroma family.

Cultivated in the jungles of Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru, this coconut/papaya/potato looking fruit is oblong, brown, fuzzy, and covered with a thick and hard exocarp. Inside the cupuaçu is a white pulp surrounding the seeds. The pulp is uniquely fragrant, often described as a mix of chocolate and pineapple. This might have something to do with the fact that it is part of the Theobroma family.

Theacrine, an alkoloid, is found in the cupuaçu fruit instead of the usual xanthines found in cocoa. This ends up providing the effects of caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline without actually ingesting any artificial sources.

Natives had the advantage…

For centuries, natives of the rainforest have used the fruit of the cupuaçu tree as a main source of food, and it continues to be considered a delicacy for the more populated towns of South America. Cupuaçu trees have been prized for centuries for all of the attributes they contain.

The cupuaçu tree usually grows under the canopy of the rainforest. It doesn’t produce the fruit that humans can eat until it is at least five or six years old. Like most fruit, it must ripen before it is ready to be picked, which usually falls around the rainy season between January and April. Because of its growing popularity, modern farmers have felt more inclined to increase their cupuaçu harvests.

The wonderful list of benefits…

The primary health benefit of cupuaçu is that it stimulates the immune system while simultaneously supporting the body’s ability to fight diseases. This seems incredible for such a simple fruit. Other excellent benefits include:

>> Lowering blood pressure

>> Healthy hair

>> Lowering cholesterol levels

>> Increasing libido

>> Improving brain functions

>> Boosting gastro-intestinal (GI) systems

>> Stimulates skin rejuvenation

>> Weight loss

>> Fighting against diabetes

>> Increasing energy (through the caffeine-like effects)

>> Neutralizing free radicals within the body’s tissues

The nutrients found within the fruit are what cause all these benefits. The superfood is chock full of vitamins B1, B2, B3 (niacin), fatty and amino acids, and nine different antioxidants, two of which include vitamins A and C.

What to do with a unique fruit…

With the description above, it’s hard to know what to do with a fruit like this. Surprisingly, cupuaçu is used in more products than you may realize. Because of the similarities it shares with cocoa, it is often used in desserts, ice cream, jams, and other sweets. Other companies have started to use the fruit in food supplements, pills, drinks, and smoothies. While it may smell of chocolate and pineapple, people say it tastes like a pear with a hint of banana. Some have even gone as far as to say that it resembles the taste of bubblegum. Others strongly disagree with this, but most people recommend that if you are consuming cupuaçu, you should mix it with another ingredient.

The pulp is also being used in highend cosmetics, dermatological applications, and body lotions. Since the pulp is highly hydrating, it seems to have the same effects to your body as cocoa butter.

A cupuaçu milkshake recipe is a good example of a way to use the fruit for something that is tasty and unique that still provides you with all the nutritional benefits. The smoothie calls for a cup of cupuaçu pulp instead of chocolate, followed by lemongrass, two tablespoons of sugar or honey, and two cups of nonfat milk. Chop lemongrass and put it into a bowl. Blend the lemongrass, sugar, and milk in the bowl for a minute and then pour into a jar with a fine filter. After that mixture has been refrigerated for 30 minutes, put ½ of the pulp in each of two large glasses and top with the refrigerated mixture.

While scientific researchers still have a long way to go in qualifying this new superfruit, Americans can still reap the benefits of this nutritionally powerful fruit without having to harvest it themselves in the depths of the rainforest. Cupuaçu typically ranges between $30 and as high as $195, depending on the quantity needed. Looking for a cheaper way to receive the benefits? Alba Botanicals, Burt’s Bees, and SoftSheen products are distributed nationally and are easy to find online or within stores. Cupuaçu will no doubt be sweeping the nation and into our everyday lives soon enough.