The rarest seeds and nuts are those that have a positive ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. Until this month I could find only two -- the well-know flax seeds and the much less widely known chia seeds. I wrote about chia seeds here in 2007. None of my other articles here have garnered more comments that that article, testifying to the hunger that we have for news of healthy seeds and nuts.
And now I can bring you news of another seed that is every bit as good for us as flax and chia seeds -- and tastes even better. It goes by the strange name "sacha inchi." When my good friend and food scout called me from the local Whole Foods Market and told me of his discovery, I assumed that it came either from Russia -- because of the "sacha" in the name or from East Asia, because "inchi" sounded vaguely Japanese or Korean to me. Instead sacha inchi seeds come from the Amazon rainforest, and the name may come from the language of the Chanka language of the Peruvian highlands.
The Contents of a Package of Roasted Sacha Inchi Seeds
Some people call it the Inca Peanut. Its scientific name is Plukenetia volubilis .
"Sacha Inchi has been called a super food because of its high content of essential fatty acids," according to the Wikipedia article. "The oil has a mild flavour, not bitter, with a nutty finish." The oil content of these seeds is 45.1 percent omega-3, 36.8 percent omega-6, and small amounts of oleic, palmitic, and stearic fatty acids.
A positive ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats provides many benefits for all of us especially for people with diabetes. I reviewed some of the evidence for how important it is for our heart health here in December.
A company called BrandStorm Inc. in Los Angeles imports the sacha inchi seeds and sells them under their TerrAmazon brand. They offer three varieties, two of which I can unreservedly recommend, Roasted Sacha Inchi and Tamari Sacha Inchi.
I mainly eat the "Sacha Inchi Roasted Seeds." Most, but possibly not all, Whole Foods Markets sell three varieties of sacha inchi seeds.
Since roasting can damage sensitive oils like omega-3, that disturbed me until I spoke with Claire Bernole, the operations manager for BrandStorm. In fact, the only concern I had about this great product is the roasting, since omega-3 is sensitive to heat.
However, "they do keep most of their omegas during roasting," Claire tells me, "because they are actually roasted at quite low temperature, 112 degree F." Food cooked to that temperature is even acceptable to advocates of a raw food diet, who say that heating food to 114 or even 118 degrees doesn't kill live enzymes.
The other variety that I like is the "Sacha Inchi Tamari." Although the label doesn't mention that it is roasted, Claire tells me that it is, because, "All sacha inchi seeds need to be roasted in order for humans to digest them."
Each variety sells for $7.99 plus tax -- not cheap for just three ounces, but worth every penny for these rare healthy and tasty seeds. I have also been able to get a case of 15 of them from Whole Foods at a 10 percent discount. The TerrAmazon.com website links a company that sells sacha inchi seeds online for $9.99 each, if you can't find them locally.
This is not cheap, but I am old enough to remember listening to Jack Benny's famous 1956 radio skit in which a mugger asked him, "Your money or your life ." Although in real life Jack was a generous man, his persona was that of a tightwad. He hesitated long to answer the question, saying, "I'm thinking it over " For me it isn't a question.