Arizona is the first state to welcome America’s newest superfruit, the ancient Incan pichuberry.
Registered dietician, Manuel Villacorta, explains what this exotic fruit from Peru is all about.
Richard Ruelas: Arizona is the first state to welcome America's newest Superfruit, the ancient incan pichuberry. Joining me to talk about this fruit is Manuel Villacorta, registered die transition and nutrition expert and spokesperson for the pichuberry company located in Phoenix. Thanks for coming to join us. Thanks for bringing some pichuberries.
Manuel Villacorta: Thank you for having me.
Richard Ruelas: Let's start with what this fruit is, and where it was first discovered and --
Manuel Villacorta: Sure. The fruit comes from the andes of Peru, and it's been with us for hundreds of years. The Incas used to eat these as energy, you know, source. And it is -- What we know now is the main -- Amazing health benefits that the berry can provide.
Richard Ruelas: You are an import from Peru yourself.
Manuel Villacorta: I am actually from Peru, and I just traveled to Peru and talked to the locals, and saw how it was growing in the Andes, it's fascinating. It grows in the wild and walk around, pick the food and eat it as they go.
Richard Ruelas: Was part of Peru's diet when you were growing up?
Manuel Villacorta: We ate some, it's one of those secrets even for South America as well. It's just been discovered, and that's why we're promoting it now, because of the health benefits they provide.
Richard Ruelas: You're here on behalf of Phoenix company that is marketing this. How did Phoenix company find out about this and get on board?
Manuel Villacorta: Yeah. The general manager of the pichuberry company actually did his thesis on the berry when he was at the University of Arizona, and made it a reality here.
Richard Ruelas: So what are the benefits that -- I guess probably were not even know by people in Peru.
Manuel Villacorta: We know, they've been doing tons of research on the berry, and one of the unique properties is the anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effect and that comes from the chemical present in the berry. And you know, there's -- There are many chemicals from other berries and this is a particular chemical, the pichuberry has. And they're known to be anti-inflammatory, and research where they show stop cancer tumor growth completely -- They stop the growth completely.
Richard Ruelas: When you say stuff like stops cancer, stops tumors grow, that sounds incredible and also sounds like something that needs to really be researched.
Manuel Villacorta: Exactly. And it has been -- University of Arizona, there's research that we're actually in the process right now that are looking into that to claim that. So far the research we have now is very promising on the anticancer effects.
Richard Ruelas: OK. So it's not something -- The FDA hasn't signed off on it.
Manuel Villacorta: No. No. No.
Richard Ruelas: OK. So can it be -- I don't know what the legal stuff is. Can you claim it being anticancer without --
Manuel Villacorta: Because of the chemicals, yes. They have proven to be anticancer.
Richard Ruelas: And they are naturally occurring. Are they in other foods or is it a certain concentration that's in this fruit?
Manuel Villacorta: There are some other foods like broccoli that have these sort of anticancer effects as well. And so the group of the -- The name of the fruit that has been studied.
Richard Ruelas: Outside of anti-inflammatory or the claim of stopping tumors, are there benefits just that we get from other fruits that are enhanced here?
Manuel Villacorta: The fruit also has little seeds inside, the seeds have little fat, and the fat has STANYLS, which have been proven to lower LDL cholesterol. So the fruit also carries that, which becomes heart healthy. The glycemic index of the fruit is 25, which is a low glycemic index, and there are some now that show us that lowers glucose levels. So it is a diabetic friendly fruit. A fruit that also can be helpful for weight management.
Richard Ruelas: It's -- It gets you a little sweet without being something that --
Manuel Villacorta: Without spiking -- Exactly, yes.
Richard Ruelas: How can it be enjoyed? What are your recommendations as far as using it, eating it? Raw?
Manuel Villacorta: That's another wonderful thing about this fruit. It's versatile. It's tart and sweet and it can be used in many different ways. You can use it as is like any other berry, but I have made pichuberry bread and muffins, frozen yogurt, you name it. It goes from baking, to salad, pichuberry sauces, it's quite nice.
Richard Ruelas: We heard you brought a muffin, some of the crew won't let you leave without trying one.
Manuel Villacorta: Yes.
Richard Ruelas: The company that is selling them, how are they getting it to market? Are they going to be in the raw form. a concentrate?
Manuel Villacorta: So we're starting with the actual fruit. We have already pichuberry infusion juice. This juice mostly is made of pichuberry, the main ingredient, and you can find it at whole foods and farmers' markets in Arizona. And then we're going into dry fruit and puree, etc. right now it's going to be sold in this form.
Manuel Villacorta: Fruit and juice. Pichuberry.
Richard Ruelas: And can the juice be used in some of the recipes you talked about?
Manuel Villacorta: Yes. I have made popsicles out of the juice, I have made shakes with the pichuberry and other berries as well, it's quite delicious. And also the juices look like cinnamon, the main ingredient in the juice is pichuberries, and something else the juice has, the pichuberry has is protein as well. And talk about also the amount of vitamins we have to talk about the nutritional value as well. Three ounces of the fruit which is only a half cup of the fruit, it has -- You can get 39% of your vitamin D, and a good source of vitamin A, E, and C, also iron. So it's great for children, growing children because you're now talking about iron and vitamin C and fighting anemia, so it's one of those Superfruits.
Richard Ruelas: I think every so often we hear pomegranate were big a few years ago, and we hear -- What is it about these certain fruits that maybe haven't gained favor before and what makes them -- What makes us discover these foods?
Manuel Villacorta: The power -- The health benefits I think is what will be the best -- The taste. The taste is quite delicious. And we have given it to children, and they love it. They love -- It's fabulous for children, and they have done market research, and 95% of the people that try the berry actually like the berry.
Richard Ruelas: I guess that's -- One of the -- Being a dietician I'm sure you hear people wanting that magic pill. I want to be healthy, so is there a banana diet. Pomegranate diet, a pichuberry diet. How would you incorporate these into a healthy lifestyle? Because these aren't a magic bullet.
Manuel Villacorta: No, and we're not saying that either, because I would say there's not one fruit or chemical that will save you. It's your entire balanced diet, and this could be incorporated as a fruit option in your diet. Among other berries as well. Because, you know, you get the entire picture of health benefits.
Richard Ruelas: If I have these with nachos and beer you're saying --
Manuel Villacorta: It may buffer the problem, yeah. [laughter]
Richard Ruelas: I guess there's -- We were talking before the show, there was a "New York Times" article that ran Sunday that talked about Latino immigrants, the second generation, their children actually live shorter lives. What is it about the American diet do you think that is causes us not to eat so much fruit?
Manuel Villacorta: I can tell you my own experience, when I moved to the United States I gained 30 pounds, and you know I think it's because I stopped doing what I was doing growing up, eating home-cooked meals, sitting down around the family and eating whole foods, so I started eating fast foods, packaged foods, not really eating from home, depending a lot of restaurant foods. So normally fruit and vegetables go off the window when you're eating out. So by learning to cook and eating more at home, I'm incorporating more fruits and vegetables. The salt consumption goes down, the fat consumption goes down, all of a sudden I lost the 30 pounds over two years, and I have gained it back because now I'm in charge of what I'm eating, so I have not gained it back.
Richard Ruelas: Is diet more important than exercise?
Manuel Villacorta: I always say your diet is 80%, your exercise is 20%. They go hand in hand, though. Nutrition is key. A lot of times people spend a lot of time exercising, not paying attention to what they're eating, and you may be fit, but you're not getting the nutrients you need for health.
Richard Ruelas: Culturally is there something about the dinner table that helps us control our watch what we eat? Is there something about eating together, or pausing to eat --
Manuel Villacorta: Well, you take time to eat, you have conversation, you are actually experiencing the mealtime, there's no stress in eating, standing up and eating. So there's studies now that shows if you sit down and eat you can assimilate the nutrients better you digest better, your brain knows you've eaten so you're not hungry again in an hour. So there's a whole mindfulness of eating is key.
Richard Ruelas: And I guess you think about your food, you take some time to look at, savor --
Manuel Villacorta: And talk about mindfulness of eating, when you're taking time to eat it, and then you taste it and you SAVOR it, it's great.
Richard Ruelas: You get the idea that fruits, something is what we're supposed to eat, not -- This is packaged naturally, not --
Manuel Villacorta: Packaged naturally. A gift of nature.
Richard Ruelas: I guess if we get kids eating this or get more adults eating -- There's the close-up. It might get us to just eat more fruit in general because they're kind of all Superfruits in a way.
Manuel Villacorta: They're sitting there, they're available to grab and eat, you don't have to cut it, you don't have to do anything. It's a great snack.
Richard Ruelas: Instead of the fruit roll-up you have a bowl of apples or berries, or pichuberry.
Manuel Villacorta: There you have it.
Richard Ruelas: I think you'll be promoting these more often, thanks for joining us.
Manuel Villacorta: Thank you.
Richard Ruelas: That's our show. Thanks for all of us. I'm going to have some fruit. Good night.
Manuel Villacorta:Registered Dietician