Cupuacu is a tree that grows in the rainforest canopy in South America with the Latin name Theobroma Grandiflorum which is related to cacao. Common throughout the Amazon basin, it is cultivated in the jungles of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru and in the north of Brazil, with the largest production in Pará. The pulp of the cupuaçu fruit is consumed throughout Central and South America, is the national fruit of Brazil, and is used to make ice creams, snack bars, and other products.
The white pulp of the cupuaçu has an odour described as a mix of chocolate and pineapple and is frequently used in desserts, juices and sweets. The juice tastes primarily like pear, banana, passion fruit, and melon. Cupuaçu is generally harvested from the ground once they have naturally fallen from the tree. It can be difficult to determine peak ripeness because there is no noticeable external color change in the fruit. However studies have shown that in Western Colombian Amazon conditions, fruits generally reach full maturity within 117 days after fruit set. Brazilians either eat it raw or use it in making sweets. Commercial food products include pulp and powder.
Cupuaçu flavors derive from its phytochemicals, such as tannins, glycosides, theograndins, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol and isoscutellarein. It also contains caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline as found in cacao, although with much lower content of caffeine.
Alone amongst every plant known, 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 down 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.