Sacha Inchi Oil
Sacha inchi (plukenetia volubilis) is a star-shaped fruit. It is also known as the Inca peanut or sacha peanut, yet despite its name, it’s not a nut and is actually a seed, which grows within the star-shaped fruit pod.
It is native to South America and has been grown in Peru by the indigenous people for centuries (roughly around 3,000 years). Today, it’s also being cultivated commercially in South East Asia (mainly Thailand, Laos, Vietnam) and has also made its way to North America, too.
Sacha inchi fruit growing
Sacha Inchi grows well in the warm Peruvian climate and can reach up to 2m in height. Two years after it is planted, the vine produces up to a hundred fruits at a time, this will contain 400 to 500 seeds a few times a year. The oil is produced by cold pressing the seeds and the flesh from the fruit. The oil itself is mild with a nutty finish.
Essential Fatty Acids
Sacha Inchi oil is predominantly made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids (82%):
- Around 48% is omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential fatty acid we cannot synthesise ourselves and so must get from food sources
- Around 33% of the total fat content is omega 6 linoleic acid (LA), another essential fatty acid
- 9% is omega-9 fatty acid, which is non-essential
Sacha Inchi oil also contains 9.3% monounsaturated fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are the good fats that we need more of in our diet, especially in the western diet. It has been noted that most of us consume more omega 6 than we do omega 3, with a highly unbalanced ratio (think 6:1and in some cases 25:1 omega 6:omega 3 ratio), whereas really the ratio should ideally be 1:1.
This is because omega 6’s are commonly found in foods such as vegetable oils, sinflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil, mayonnaise, nuts and seeds, some fast food meals, and some cookies and cakes. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is low in sacha inchi, which makes it an ideal source of omega 3 (Chirinos et al., 2013). Alpha-linolenic acid is the omega 3 fatty acid which is found from plant sources and omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and it has been shown that alpha-linolenic acid consumption lead to a moderately lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.
We do need an omega 6 intake and it is important that this ratio is balanced. There is this perception that omega 6 is bad for us, but it is an essential fatty acid, meaning we need to get it through our diet. By using an oil which is balanced in these essential fatty acids it means that we are less likely to exceed the ideal ratio.