Maya Nut: Traditional Mayan Superfood and Coffee Alternative You Need to Know About
Some of the most popular wonder foods of today like chia seeds, quinoa, and acai berries were dietary staples of the ancient Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. These “superfoods” gave ancient indigenous peoples of Central and South America the strength and endurance they needed to survive in their often harsh environments. At Blue Zones, we never isolate just one ingredient or “superfood” as the magic bullet to optimal health and beauty. But we do promote these nutrient-rich foods as part of a healthy diet, and are pleased to be helping to introduce the Maya nut to a broader audience.
In Costa Rica, home to one of the five blue zones regions of the world, the Brosimum alicastrum tree grows natively in abundance. It’s indigenous to the tropical rainforests of Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, but has long been ignored by most of the world and in some areas has become threatened by logging industries. The seeds of the tree are often referred to as Maya nuts and boast an array of health benefits, along with sustainable harvesting practices that help locals in these rainforest communities.
What is the Maya Nut?
The Maya nut has a variety of indigenous names. In Costa Rica, they call it ojoche, but it’s also referred to as ramon, breadnut, ojite, ojushte, ujushte, and capomo. Scientifically the Maya nut is not actually a nut, but a drupe, which is any fruit consisting of an outer skin, a pulpy middle layer, and a woody innershell enclosing a single seed.
Maya nuts have a rich history of human use as a food source and go all the way back to the classical Mayan period; ancient Mayans used every part of the B. alicastrum tree including its bark, leaves, and nuts.
Maya nuts are nutrient-dense and are 100-percent free of gluten, dairy, pesticides, nuts, and common allergens. They are also completely caffeine-free and high in potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants, zinc, protein, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. Toasted and ground into powder, they can be used in baked goods as a flour replacement; or simmered into a hot, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal; or they can be mixed, blended, or steeped to create a drink with a wonderfully nutty, mocha-like flavor similar to coffee. The cooking or roasting of Maya nuts is similar to the traditional preparation of maize in Nicoya; it’s boiled with lime, ground to a paste, and then cooked on a flat surface as tortillas.
Historically, in Central America it has also been used as a maize alternative in some cultures during times of famine. A natural galactagogue, it was used in traditional medicine to help pregnant or nursing mothers increase milk production.
Maya Nut Drink
Centenarians in most blue zones regions drink coffee daily, sometimes up to two to three cups a day. Tea, both herbal and green, is also a popular beverage. For those who need or want to avoid caffeine, however, maya nut powder is a caffeine-free, nutrient-dense alternative to coffee that can be prepared in the same manner. The flavor is mild with notes of cinnamon or mocha; it does not have a bitter aftertaste, and it can be made hot or iced. Even though it is caffeine free, people report a natural energy boost after drinking Maya nut drinks.
For an iced “latte”: Pour your favorite nut milk, or water, in a glass. Add 1 scoop (33g) of the powder. Sweeten, if desired. Mix well (best if mixed in a blender or shaker bottle). Add ice and enjoy.
For a hot coffee or tea: Add 1 scoop (33g) to hot water or steamed nut milk. Stir well and enjoy.
You can also add one scoop to your favorite baked goods for a boost of potassium and nutrients or replace the flour completely.
Nutrients in the Maya Nut
The Maya nut has been tested and proven by the FDA to contain no toxic alkaloids or allergens. It is not affected by aflatoxins and is 100 percent gluten and caffeine free. It has a low (<29) Glycemic Index, indicating it is ok for diabetics or those on a low carbohydrate diet. And analyses of the amino acids contained in Maya nuts indicate that they provide a high-quality protein. They’re also high in potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, antioxidants, zinc, protein, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. One serving (33g) of Maya nut powder contains 72 calories, 0 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber (20 percent DV), 2 grams of protein, 390 mg of potassium(11 percent DV), and 9 mg of vitamin C (15 percent DV).
Maya nut trees are drought resistant, and new research shows that they have the ability to sequester carbon. While many Central American rainforests face deforestation, the Maya nut tree could help release the stress that cash crops like sugarcane and corn have placed on the land. Maya nuts can be hand-picked from the forest floor and almost anyone can collect bags of ripe seeds to receive a modest income.
Morning Brews, the exclusive Blue Zones® Maya nut blends, are “supplements as mother nature intended.” The coffee and coffee-like blends contain powerful antioxidants and are nutritionally dense. The traditional product, in its purest form, was consumed by people in Costa Rica, Central and Latin America, and Mexico for centuries.
You can read more studies about Maya nuts and the Brosimum alicastrum tree at The Maya Nut Institute where their mission is to “find balance between people, food and forests.”
Maya Nut Products