Harness the Power of Ancient Andean Superfoods
Global Kitchen, Superfoods and Nutrition
28 July 2017

South America is perhaps most famous for its ancient cultures – the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas and more. These pyramid building peoples present us with many enigmas, not least, how did they build those huge, imposing pyramids?

Whilst I won’t attempt to answer that particular question, we can postulate that maybe they had a helping hand from some of the amazing, energy packed superfoods which were readily available to them! These ancient staples have gained increasing notoriety for their myriad of health benefits and energy boosting qualities – something the indigenous people of this captivating continent knew only too well.

With a rich history spanning thousands of years, South America’s cuisine has evolved into producing some of the tastiest dishes on the planet. The Peruvians were experts at cultivating tubers; maca, yacon, cassava, yam and even the humble potato. White potatoes belong to the nightshade family and were highly poisonous in their original state. Legend has it that shamans journeyed to commune with the spirits of the potato plants and these spirits told them how to breed and hybridise potatoes, thus turning them into the edible staple that we know and love today. The same could be said for the pharmacological genius displayed in their understanding of many other medicinal herbs and plants.

What better way to start our Superfood journey across South America than to breakfast in Brazil with:

Tigela de Acai

A zingy combination of Acai, Chia, Coconut, Yacon, Nuts, Cacao Nibs and Fresh Fruits

Acai Smoothie Bowl

This delightful acai berry smoothie bowl is a hugely popular, traditional Brazilian breakfast dish. The acai palm tree is native to Amazonian rainforests, with its deep purple berries being a food staple amongst the local population. Acai berries are rich in antioxidants, their vibrant purple colour being indicative of the type of antioxidants they contain – anthocyanins. These plant flavonoids are more famously found in the grapes used to make red wine, hence the claims that red wine is good for your health. With many studies supporting the use of anthocyanins for health improvement, some benefits you can expect from these powerful compounds are; relief from joint pain (due to anti-inflammatory effects), enhanced heart health, protection from cancer, diabetes and much more.

Also used in this dish is another ancient Andean staple – the chia seed. This unassuming little seed literally translates as “strength” in Mayan, with tribes reputed to have run for hundreds of miles on only a few spoonfuls. Also popular with the Aztecs, its cultivation is referenced in the Florentine Codex—a twelve volume research manuscript including more than 2,000 natively-drawn illustrations meant to document the culture and natural history of the Aztec people. Upon deciphering these codices, the conclusion was reached that chia seeds were so highly prized that they were used as currency as well as offered to the gods along with other life-sustaining crops.

To say that chia seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch would be an understatement. As well as being the highest source of Omega 3 plant based fatty acid, chia seeds are extremely high in protein, fibre and are chock full of essential minerals such as; magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, copper and manganese - is it any wonder the Mayans valued them higher than gold?

If a smoothie is your preference at breakfast, you could try our:

Amazon Power Breakfast Smoothie

A heady mix of Chia Seeds, Maca, Guarana, Lucuma and Cacao, this smoothie is guaranteed to get you revved up for the day!

Maca Smoothie

Guarana is often referred to as “Nature’s Rocket Fuel”, a well-deserved title when you consider it contains more natural caffeine than any other plant. Luckily it contains many other compounds which act together to stimulate over and above its caffeine content, allowing the caffeine to be released slowly thus maintaining a steady supply of natural energy. Evidence suggests it is also a wonder herb for weight loss. It has been used for centuries by the Guarani Tribe as a natural appetite suppressant – this effect is thought to be due, in part, to its promotion of thermogenesis – the way our bodies convert food into fuel. It does this through nutritional stimulation of the beta-adrenergic receptor pathway, breaking down stored fat, which stimulates lipid migration and allows the fats to be turned into energy. It also contains a unique set of compounds which slow down the rate at which food is absorbed – leaving you feeling fuller for longer.

Add in the maca, well known for its adaptogenic qualities which will help your body deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life, and the pure cacao powder which is full of phytonutrients that will influence our mood and alertness in a positive way. A recently discovered “messenger molecule” called anandamide is also present in cacao – the name is derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning joy or bliss. This natural pleasure molecule fits into receptor sites of the cells of the nervous system and has been associated with improving motivation and increasing pleasure. So now we know why we feel so good after eating chocolate!

Guarana, acai, chia

The Great Chilli Controversy

There has been much “heated debate” around the origins of this notorious dish. Myths and legends abound as to the genesis of chilli-con-carne, one particularly grisly tale being that a bunch of enraged Aztecs cut a swathe through the invading conquistadors “somewhere west of Laramie” in the early 19th century. Apparently they ate said conquistadors, seasoning chunks of them with a passel of chilli peppers.

There are many contenders to the invention of this dish – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, though not one of them is Mexico. In fact a Mexican dictionary defined it in 1959 as: “A detestable dish sold from Texas to New York City and erroneously described as Mexican.”

Whilst chilli as we know it in the western world is virtually unknown in South America, we do know that chilli peppers are native to Mexico. We also know that a dish of meat, beans, peppers and herbs was eaten by the Inca, Aztec and Mayan Indians long before the advent of the Spanish Invasion.

Whatever the origin, there is no mistaking this distinctive dish. With this in mind, we created our very own:

Chilli-con-Cacao

A Vegan take on a traditional Chilli made with vegetables and flavoured with Chilli & Cacao

Our vegan take on this famous traditional dish is spicy, sweet and slightly bitter all at the same time, whilst being sumptuously rich and smooth with a nice after-kick of heat. A real hearty dish that will warm your cockles on a cold evening. Give it a Mexican feel and a superfood edge by serving on:

Purple Cornflour Tortillas

Super healthy tacos made with Purple Corn Flour filled with Avocado, Tomato Salsa & seasoned with Chilli and Lime

Using purple cornflour in this tortilla recipe gives it a powerful nutritional boost. Why is this corn purple? Well our old antioxidant friends – anthocyanins – are again responsible for the deep purple colour. As mentioned above, it is these powerful compounds that make it stand out head and shoulders above regular corn. A study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” in 2004 found that one particular anthocyanin found in purple corn, CG3, actually has the potential to fight obesity and diabetes. CG3 is also reported to be one of the most powerful antioxidants in existence.

Another native wonder to South America is the pau d’arco tree. Also used by the South American Indians to make hunting bows, the bark of the pau d’arco tree is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is especially useful in the alleviation of arthritis pain. It is also a well-known anti-fungal agent, containing several classes of compounds which have been shown to inhibit the growth of candida. Pau d’arco can significantly accelerate the healing of gastric ulcers, is anti-viral and a powerful detoxifier – removing harmful toxic substances whilst stimulating the digestive system.

Last but not least, why not wash down this delectable feast with:

Spiced Pau d’arco Apple Tea

Pau d'arco and Apple, lightly spiced with Cinnamon and Star Anise - deeply refreshing

This delicious blend of spices mixed with the potent inner bark of the pau d’arco tree makes the perfect accompaniment to this super-charged Andean feast.

And so it is here we will leave this vibrant continent – home to a plethora of healing herbs, medicine plants and ancient wisdom. It is very interesting to observe how far away we have deviated from the most powerful healing substances on earth which are, and always have been, found in Mother Nature. This is something our ancestors knew at a very deep level.

4,000 Years of Medicine

2000 BC: Here eat this root

1000 AD: That root is heathen! Here, say this prayer

1865 AD: That prayer is superstition! Here, drink this potion

1935 AD: That potion is snake oil! Here, swallow this pill

1975 AD: That pill is poison! Here, take this antibiotic

2017 AD: That antibiotic is ineffective! Here eat this root ……

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