Cupuaçu: The Pharmacy In A Fruit

Cupuaçu: The Pharmacy In A Fruit

Cupuaçu also spelled cupuassu, cupuazú, cupu assu, and copoasu, is a tropical rainforest tree related to cacao. Common throughout the Amazon basin, it is widely cultivated in the jungles of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru and in the north of Brazil, with the largest production in Pará, followed by Amazonas, Rondônia and Acre.

Cupuaçu (pronounced koo-poo-ah-soo) is a delicious melon-sized fruit with a creamy white pulp that grows in the Amazon Rainforest drainage basin in northern parts of Brazil. Cupuacu is known in the Amazon as “the pharmacy in a fruit” and could be considered one of the most nutritionally beneficial superfruits ever introduced to the marketplace. As a cousin of the cacao fruit, cupuaçu has a prized tropical flavor combining elements of chocolate, bananas, pear, passion fruit and pineapple.

Cupuaçu trees usually range from 5 to 15 meters (16 to 50 feet) in height, though some can reach 20 meters (65 feet). They have brown bark. Their leaves are 25–35 cm (10–14 in) long and 6–10 cm (2–4 in) across, with 9 or 10 pairs of veins. As they mature, their leaves change from pink-tinted to green, and eventually they begin bearing fruit. Cupuaçu fruits are oblong, brown, and fuzzy, 20 cm (8 in) long, 1–2 kg (2–4 lb) in weight, and covered with a thick (4–7 mm), hard exocarp.

The white pulp of the cupuaçu is uniquely fragrant (described as a mix of chocolate and pineapple), and It is frequently used in desserts, juices and sweets. The juice tastes primarily like a pear, with a hint of banana. Cupuaçu is touted as a possible superfruit flavor. Commercial production of cupuaçu includes food supplements, pills, drinks, smoothies and sweets. The pulp is also used in cosmetics products such as body lotions, as it is highly hydrating, similarly to cocoa butter.

Its flavors derive from its phytochemicals, such as tannins, the sulphated flavone glycosides theograndins I and II, and other flavonoids, including catechins, quercetin, kaempferol and isoscutellarein. It also contains the alkaloid theacrine instead of the xanthines (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline) found in cacao.

Cupuaçu supports a phylogenetically intriguing butterfly herbivore the lagarta verde, Macrosoma tipulata (Hedylidae), which can be a serious defoliator.

Cupuacu is extremely popular in South America, especially Brazil, and is poised to become the next big super fruit to hit the U.S. Some nutritional food experts are saying that it will eclipse the popular Acai because it's healthier, has the same benefits, and is easier to grow without destroying rainforests.

The fruits are about the size of a medium-sized watermelon and become ripe from January to April, during the rainy season. These are gathered, split open, and the pulp is made into juice, ice cream, jam, tarts, smoothies and more. These are considered delicacies in many of the larger cities of South America, such as Rio, and are sold in shops of all description.

Traditionally it has been cultivated and used by indigenous peoples for centuries. Nutritionally, Cupuacu is very compact and full. The ìbeansî (seeds) were often given to people to chew to cure abdominal pains and the juice would be blessed by shamans and given to pregnant women, newlyweds who wanted children, and others for various maladies.

Cupuaçu: The Pharmacy In A FruitCupuacu came to the attention of many westerners when a Japanese company attempted to trademark the name of the tree and fruit as well as the term ìCupulateî to sell as a chocolate coffee-like drink. Brazil finally declared Cupuacu to be the national fruit and the name to be ineligible for trademark.

Health Benefits of Cupuacu

Cupuacu fruit has phytonutrient polyphenols (theograndins). These have a myriad of nutritional benefits, which will be discussed more thoroughly below.

Cupuacu is also heavy with vitamins B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), fatty and amino acids, and at least nine antioxidants (including Vitamins A and C). Being from the cocoa family, Cupuacu also has a high flavanoid content.

There are many other ingredients in the nutritional content of these rainforest fruits as well, including calcium, selenium, and others.

There are many health benefits to Cupuacu, most of which are tied to the fruit's extremely potent phytonutrient polyphenols, anti-oxidants, essential nutrients, vitamins, and others mentioned earlier.

It's primary health benefit is stimulating the immune system while simultaneously supporting the body's ability to fight disease. Cupuacu has a caffeine-like effect, but does not contain caffeine. It is one of the few cocoa relatives that does not, yet it retains this energetic effect.

Most of the benefits of Cupuacu are synergistic. For instance, the energy-boosting effect mentioned comes primarily as a result of the fruit's heightening of the immune system, lowering of blood pressure, and the body-boosting effects of the fast-acting nutrients and vitamins from the fruit. Unlike most energy drinks or caffeine, however, there is no ìdownî with Cupuacu. No tired feeling afterwards.

Still more synergistic effects include healthier skin and hair, lowered cholesterol levels (through lipid peroxidation inhibition), and better libido. These are some of the better benefits of the Cupuacu fruit.

Another huge benefit of the fruit is its extremely rich array and concentration of antioxidants. These have a large number of longer-term effects on the body including (and possibly most importantly) the neutralization of free radicals in the body's tissues. The improved circulation and lowered blood pressure mentioned already aid in this process of eliminating those free radicals.

Others of these antioxidants are what help lower cholesterol levels, improve brain function, and more. Many of the essential vitamins and minerals are boosters for the gastro-intestinal system (explaining the fruit's use by natives for GI problems) as well as a healthier cardio-vascular system.

Cupuacu’s nutritional value is found in its complex array of nutrients including nine flavonoids, polyphenols and theacrines. Unlike cacao which contains xanthines (caffeine, theobromine and theophylline), cupuaçu contains theacrines which produce similar mood and energy enhancing effects without the negative effects of xanthines.

Cupuaçu: The Pharmacy In A FruitCupuacu’s primary health benefit is stimulating the immune system thus supporting the body’s ability to fight disease. Cupuacu has an energetic effect, but does not contain caffeine. It is one of the few cocoa relatives that does not.

Cupuacu’s benefits are synergistic. For example, the energy-boosting effect mentioned is a result of the fruit’s heightening of the immune system, lowering of blood pressure and the overall body-boosting effects of the fast-acting nutrients and vitamins from the fruit. Unlike most energy drinks or caffeine, though, there is no tired feeling afterwards.

Other synergistic effects include healthier skin and hair, lowered cholesterol levels and improved libido. In addition, many of the fruits nutrients are boosters for the gastro-intestinal system and the cardiovascular system.

Common traditional uses for cupuaçu include:

  • To lower blood pressure
  • Healthy hair
  • To lower cholesterol levels
  • For Increasing libido
  • To improve brain functions
  • To boost gastro-intestinal (GI) systems
  • To stimulate skin rejuvenation
  • To achieve weight loss
  • For combating diabetes
  • To increase energy

Cupuaçu pulp is often used for making juice, ice cream, smoothies, mousse, jellies, chocolates called “cupualte” and liqeur. The seeds are used for producing “cupualte”, a product with similar characteristics to chocolate, but which contains nutritional value and is healthier.



Dated 21 January  2014

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