We all know what a challenge healthy nutrition can be in our hectic era; the temptation to give in to easy, processed fast food is ever-present. Yet studies show that complete, minimally processed foods give us the optimal nutrition, higher energy levels and overall healthier bodies that we need to achieve our goals. A highly varied, unprocessed diet from mostly plant sources is your best health ally and defense against disease.
Once you’ve covered the basics, with a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein and fat sources, consider adding a Peruvian superfood for additional variety and nutritional coverage. Most people know Peru as the home of the potato, but this fertile land offers far more than just everyone’s favorite starchy tuber. Maca, for instance, is the ground up root of the Lepidium meyenii plant, a relative of the radish. It has a pleasant butterscotch taste and is reputed to boost energy, improve athletic performance and memory, and increase libido and sexual performance (Peruvians jokingly call it the “Viagra of the Andes”). Throw it in your morning smoothie or add it to salad dressings for an energy boost.
Tarwi is the bean from a species of lupin (Lupinus mutabilis) that is slowly becoming better known outside of Peru for its high protein (40%) and healthy fat (20%) content. It has remained a relative unknown for so long because of its high content of bitter-tasting alkaloids, but these can be removed by soaking the beans for several days. Peruvian entrepreneurs are beginning to introduce pre-soaked, ready-to-eat tarwi to the North American market. The bean has a mild, nutty taste and goes well in salads.
Quinoa is of course the best-known Peruvian superfood. This was a staple of the Inca Empire and currently grows all throughout the Andes, including Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. The growing season sees the Andean hillsides turn the exuberant shades of red, purple and yellow of quinoa plants. This pseudocereal is high in protein, dietary fiber and manganese and is gluten-free for celiacs or the wheat-sensitive. Quinoa is extraordinarily diverse and fits well into any number of recipes, such as salads, soups, a rice replacement or even dried out, ground and used to make pizza crusts. It is normally cooked by boiling it like rice, but two variations make it more exciting: 1) lightly toast dry quinoa seeds in olive or sesame oil before boiling them; this accentuates their naturally nutty flavor. 2) Sprout your quinoa seeds by soaking them in water overnight, then straining off the water and allowing the seeds to drip dry through a sieve. Once the seeds sprout little tails, they are ready for consumption. (Be careful with sprouts as they can harbor bacteria. Either cook or sterilize them before consumption.) The sprouting process removes natural plant compounds that can interfere with digestion and unlocks previously unavailable nutrients. An added benefit of sprouting versus boiling is that the seeds can’t end up overcooked to leave you with sad, soggy quinoa.
More Super Foods
At Travel and Healing, we plan our meals to ensure balanced, revitalizing nourishment. Our backcountry chefs use 80% organic ingredients and prepare dishes using the above three Peruvian superfoods, plus many more. We also constantly strive to eliminate inorganic waste by buying in bulk from local providers, thereby reducing unnecessary packaging. For the truly culinarily curious, we offer different Day Trips & Healing Experiences, one which takes in the traditional food of Cusco, including guinea pig and stuffed spicy peppers, and another which introduces you to the ancient tradition of the pachamanca, the Andean feast cooked in a specially prepared earth oven.Sign up for any one of our multiday Wellness Sacred Treks like four day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Lares Trek, Ausangate trek & Salkantay Trek. Aswell Festivals & Pilgrimages to sample Peru’s nutritional offerings!