With summer settled in and our days stretched out, we look for ways to gather our friends and family to spend more time under the sun. However, as we enjoy these days, the sun is ultimately drawing the moisture from our bodies, leaving us both tired and parched. As part of leading a healthy and well-balanced life, it is important for us to stay hydrated and nourished.
Paletas, the Spanish name for ice pops, come to mind when thinking of ways to cool down in the summer heat. But rather than spending money on commercially-produced paletas made with high fructose corn syrup and synthetic dyes, why not get creative in making your own nutrient-packed refreshments?
I have used five of my favorite Peruvian superfoods to make the paletas because of their delightful tastes, abundant nutrients, and remarkable health benefits. Here is just to name a few of these benefits:
Lúcuma is a tropical fruit born on the coastal highlands and valleys of Peru. When biting into this favored fruit, hints of caramel, pumpkin and maple spread throughout the palate, making it a popular featured flavor of ice cream. Despite its natural sweetness, Lúcuma has a considerably low glycemic index of 25, making it the ideal treat for those watching their blood sugar. Lúcuma helps boost immunity and also replenishes skin cells during the sunshine season due to its wealth of beta-carotene.
Camu-camu is a tropical berry commonly found in the Amazonian jungle. Camu-camu is a prized resource for its ample supply of Vitamin C -packing more than 60 times the vitamin C per serving than an orange. Even better, the vitamin C in this berry is more readily absorbed than from supplements, as our bodies better utilizes nutrients that come from natural sources.
Purple Corn is one of 3,000 corn varieties native to Peru and is a staple of the native diet. As its name implies, the corn is purple in color- a deep vibrant hue derived from its nutrient-dense pigmentation. Purple corn is rich in anthocyanins, which have the great potential in reducing the risk of heart disease and helps increase visual acuity and improve night vision.
Pichuberry is possibly the greatest superfruit available in the United States. The Pichuberry is a small orange fruit that resembles a cherry tomato in size and appearance. However, don’t let its appearance fool you. The taste of this little berry can be truly shocking with its tart yet sweet flavor, as if a hybrid of cherry and passion fruit. Pichuberries contain a large amount of naturally occurring active chemical compound called withanolides, which are known to have a strong link to inhibition of cancer growth. Withanolides also help prevent inflammation, linking them to pain relief and management of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
Cacao. Resembling the coffee bean, cacao is a tiny brown bean used in the process of chocolate making. As many chocolate products are diluted with sugars and fillers, the higher percent of cacao bean, the higher the quality of chocolate. This bean is packed with minerals and anti-aging antioxidants, and is rich in B-complex vitamins as well as vitamins A, C and E – making your Cacao paleta a deliciously natural multi-vitamin.
These are my fun and nutritiously quenching paletas. The recipes are simple, quick to assemble and a great excuse to socialize with friends and family, or just to enjoy on a quiet afternoon. Whether you’re looking for a post-workout snack or a poolside treat, paletas are perfect for everyone. I mean, what child or adult doesn’t enjoy making and eating paletas?
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good and his new book Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes (HCI, October 2013)