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Purple corn drink may be next big superfood

February 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
When you hear about superfoods, you're usually listening to news about a plant food that is vivid in color. Well, that pigment provides protection for the plant and provides health benefits for us. Today we're looking at one possible rising star: chicha.

"It's purple corn juice and we make it with fresh fruits, cinnamon cloves," said Lucy Haro owner of Qusqo, a Peruvian bistro in West Los Angeles.

Qusqo serves chicha made from Peruvian blue corn. While some buy the powdered version from Latin markets, Haro makes it the old-school way.

Haro said she puts the purple corn, apple, pineapple in a pot of hot water and adds some cinnamon and cloves. After a two-hour boil, it is sweet, refreshing and ready to go.

"My grandmother says it's great for your skin and she swears it lowers her blood pressure," said Haro.

Grandmother might be on to something. The blue corn contains anthocyanins, which is a plant chemical that is known to help fight the challenges of high-blood pressure and cholesterol.

Studies on animals taking the extract of purple corn also found it helps regulate blood sugar and fat function as well.

It might not have the panache of the blueberry, but it might be worth a sip or two.

While it's not the top beverage here in the states, it is said to have been the sacred drink of the Incas, dating back over 1,000 years.

"It wasn't the gold that was valuable, it was all the food and the drink and the chicha beer," said Haro.

Chicha can be fermented into something alcoholic, but Haro serves only chicha morado known as purple punch-- free of spirits-- along with a menu of fish, grains and a variety of colorful vegetables as the main staple.

Move over Mediterranean diet? Peru might just be onto something.