Almost every variation of pesto recipe known to man utilizes olive oil as the base of a pesto sauce. And while I get it—it’s a savory oil with a distinct taste and high antioxidant content—I’ve been wanting to try a new oil in a pesto recipe. Finding a high-quality oil with an abundant supply of omega fats and antioxidants isn’t easy with many cheap, oxidized vegetable oils such as canola on supermarket shelves. Sacha inchi oil isn’t very well-known, but it is certainly a superfood oil with sustainable roots.
Native to Peru, the sacha inchi fruit (that’s right, it’s a fruit) grows abundantly and its production cycle is long, meaning the plant plays a role in reforestation and can create long-term jobs for farmers. Flora works directly with small farms in Peru, harvesting directly from the source and compensating workers fairly. Nutritious and sustainable—a perfect pair!
Sacha Inchi & Nutrition
The fat profile of sacha inchi oil:
- Contains omegas 3, 6 and 9 a ratio of about 5:3:1.
- Its smoke point, or the point to which it can be heated before it oxidizes, is 300 F, making sacha inchi an oil ideal for sauces and dressings rather than high heat cooking.
The fat profile of an oil is something we should be aware of before consuming. Whereas most vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3 (see this chart for comparison), sacha inchi is quite the opposite and rather high in omega-3 fatty acids. A diet too high in omega-6 can increase inflammation, something very common to western diets. Higher amounts of omega-3 in the diet are anti-inflammatory and important to brain health.
Sacha inchi is high in phytosterols, Phytosterols are plant sterols mostly found in nuts and seeds that mimic cholesterol by having a similar chemical structure. These are helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol levels simply by increasing the amount of excess cholesterol that we excrete as waste. Essentially, they fool the gut lining into reabsorbing sterols instead of endogenous cholesterol.
The seed of the sacha inchi plant is very high in the amino acid tryptophan. This is excellent news because tryptophan is a precursor to the happy-inducing neurotransmitter, serotonin. When we produce more serotonin, we feel happier, we lose weight easier, and funnily enough, we sleep better. Serotonin is actually converted into melatonin at night, the neurotransmitter we need to feel tired. Because the oil is an extraction of the plant retaining only the fat, there is no protein or tryptophan in sacha inchi oil. However, this is something to be aware of as a property of the plant itself.
Sacha inchi oil is very high in the antioxidant family vitamin E. Per 100 g of the oil, sacha inchi contains around 17 mg of vitamin E. Vitamin E is important to skin health, plays a role in collagen formation, and inhibits free radical damage that accelerates aging.
Another antioxidant abundant in this oil are carotenoids, precursors to the fat-soluble vitamin A. Carotenoids protect the eyes and the brain, and fight free radical damage. Per 100 g, sacha inchi oil contains around 700 mcg of vitamin A.
Use this savory pesto as a topping for freshly roasted root vegetables. Here, I’ve roasted butternut squash, carrots, beets, onions, and brussels sprouts in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then added a spoonful of cooked spelt, black lentils and pesto sauce. The perfect veggie-rich side dish!