Aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa) is a rich source of energy and nutrients, containing one of the highest plant sources of vitamin A as carotenoids – with amounts five times higher than carrots.
Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM
In the upper Amazon, every one eats or drinks aguaje. You’ll find street sellers on every corner peeling the dark, reddish brown palm fruit for consumption with salt or for use as a drink mixed with water and ice. Amazonian native people call it the ‘tree of life’ because of its many health benefits. But, what exactly is aguaje’s magic?
Locals say it’s good for men and women because it refreshes and nourishes the body and balances hormones. Menopausal women eat it to control hot flashes and restore estrogen values. My sources in Iquitos claim it can even restore fertility, therefore cautioning women over 40 against eating too much.
The oval-shaped, fig-sized fruit grows on the Moriche Palm. Aguaje is one of the most abundant South American palm trees and is found throughout western Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia; and, all along the Amazon River and Orinoco River basins – in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago; and, the Brazilian states of Bahia, Goias, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, and Sao Paulo.
In Iquitos, you can’t walk more than a few blocks without running into women street sellers, called aguajeras, with buckets of aguaje. It takes a strong paring knife to pare off the hard skin, revealing a thin layer of pale yellow pulp – called mesocarp, which is the part consumed. The taste is slightly salty and plain, and sometimes a pinch of salt is added to make it more palatable. Its nutrient and electrolyte content helps fight the dehydration one experiences as a result from the continual sweating in tropical heat. The antioxidant value helps reduce the effects of sun damage, another consequence of living near the equator.
Also, according to researchers at IAAP (Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana in Iquitos), aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa) is a rich source of energy and nutrients, containing one of the highest plant sources of vitamin A as carotenoids – with amounts five times higher than carrots. It also is high in vitamin C, and the oil (called Buriti) is rich in vitamin E and emollient factors that are nourishing to the skin. And, it has a decent amount of protein, making it an important supplemental “super” food source.
Its high Vitamin A content makes it an unparalleled dietary source for children and pregnant women since it helps form and maintain healthy teeth, soft tissues and bones, mucous membranes, and skin. Aguaje also promotes good eyesight, especially for forest dwelling people who live in low light environments. Furthermore, it is also necessary during reproduction and enriches mother’s milk during breast-feeding.
Aguaje hasn’t caught on as a health super food in American, yet. However, next time you are in the Amazon, give it a try. But, make sure your source is clean so you don’t get unwanted intestinal bacteria. And, don’t eat too much! At least that’s what the locals caution.
Check out this YouTube video by IAAP (in Spanish):
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