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.
Cupuacu contains unique polyphenols, powerful antioxidant phytonutrients, call theograndins in addition to nine other powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C. This incredible superfood is also filled with Essential Fatty Acids, amino acids, phosphorus, fiber and vitamins B1, B2, and B3 (niacin).
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.
Cupuacu also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 (niacin) fatty and amino acids, and at least nine antioxidants including vitamin A and C. Minerals such as calcium, selenium and others are present as well
Cupuacu’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.
The cupuaçu tree is from the theobrama family, which appropriately means “Food of the Gods”. The cocoa tree from which we get chocolate is from the same family. History tells us both cupuaçu trees and their fruit played an important roll in early Amazonian cultures and both were prized throughout the region for their taste, health and medicinal properties. Shamans used to bless and give to pregnant woman who suffered from a difficult birth, or newlyweds that yearned for a child. Some were given the beans (seeds) of the fruit to cure their abdominal pain.
Cupuaçu is wildly popular in Brazil as well as other parts of South America despite taking a back seat to cacao during the past century. 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 a delicacy in the more populated towns of South America.
Today, 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.
The pulp of the fruit is frequently used in the cosmetic industry for shampoos, soaps, lotions and creams due to it being highly hydrating with its emollient power giving similar effects to your body as cocoa butter. The rind or shell of the cupuaçu fruit can be used for energy production due to its timber like characteristics. Other common traditional uses for cupuaçu include:
Cupuaçu is harvested as a sustainable rainforest product from the Amazon. It is common throughout the Amazon basin where the trees grow wild under the canopy of the rainforest, thus preserving the natural ecosystem. The fruit is an amazing renewable resource. Since it occurs naturally throughout certain regions of Brazil and can be harvested in the down time between other fruit harvests like acai, the local Amazon population has an incredible upside potential with the spread of the knowledge of the incredible suprefruit’s benefits.
The cupuaçu trees don’t produce fruit that humans can eat until they are at least five or six years old. Like most fruit, cupuaçu must ripen before it is ready to be picked. This usually occurs around rainy season between January and April.
Once ripe, the oblong, brown and fuzzy fruits look like a coconut-papaya-melon-potato combination. They are covered with a thick, hard exocarp. The fruits are harvested for both their creamy, exotic pulp and their seeds which are used to produce cupualate.