The Superfood That Gives Authentic Mexican Food It's Unique Flavor?

The Superfood That Gives Authentic Mexican Food It's Unique Flavor?
IMG via thespruceeats.com

SUPERFOOD: Achiote / Annatto

WHAT IS IT
Achiote (interchangeably referred as Annatto) is a flavoring and coloring agent sometimes called the “Saffron of Mexico”. It is made from Annatto seeds, extracted from the Bixa Orellana tropical tree, and mixed with herbs and spices to create Achiote in the form of paste, oil, or powder. Achiote is what gives traditional Yucatan and Oaxaca traditional dishes its rich orange-red-yellow color.
 
ORIGIN
This spice is commonly used in Latin American and Asian cuisine. It's widely known in Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean in particular, where it is believed to have been an integral part of indigenous tribes. With colonization, Achiote / Annatto seeds followed the built-in spice trade routes throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, which explains its use worldwide. (1)
 
TASTE & AROMA
Subtle earthy, peppery taste with a slightly sweet, nutty aroma.
“a flavor that tastes as though it’s been unchanged since pre-Columbian times” - Rick Bayless, a chef who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. (2)
 
POPULAR FOR
Food coloring agent: Annatto is often the bright yellow or orange food colorant used in butter, cheddar, and cheese products.
Culinary: Sauces, soups, stews, marinades
Modern medicine: now being studied for its antioxidative and anticancer effects due to promising recent research.
 

THE TOP 5 HEALTH BENEFITS

1. PREVENTS: CANCER, EARLY AGING, & OTHER DISEASES

As a result of: Achiote seeds are high in antioxidant compounds, including Vitamin C and Carotenoid bixin, which is solely found in this plant.
 
Which does: Antioxidants help regulate free radicals in order to prevent oxidative stress. The oxidation of lipids and proteins is associated with changes in their structure and functions, and now considered the root cause of major health concerns. Some studies have shown the plant’s powerful antioxidants can reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells. It also helps boost the immune system.
 
Oxidative stress can cause:
  • DNA damage that can lead to cancer 
  • Early signs of aging
  • Heart diseases
  • Complications with diabetes 
 
______
2. FIGHTS INFLAMMATION
 
As a result of: Achiote contains Tocotrienols, related to the Vitamin E family.

Which does: Tocotrienols is an antioxidant that can target specific free radicals to reduce or reverse sources of inflammation. It has the power to reduce high cholesterol and lower blood sugar levels.

Inflammation can cause:
  • Mouth sores
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Sinusitis
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Lupus
  • Heart disease or stroke
  • Chronic peptic ulcer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Active hepatitis
  • Brain diseases: dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s disease

______
3. PREVENTS & TREATS SKIN CONDITIONS
 
As a result of: The methanolic extract taken from achiote leaves acts as an antimicrobial agent. 

Which does: It has proven to inhibit the growth of fungi and bacteria associated with serious infections and skin diseases.

Fungi and bacteria it can prevent or treat:
  • Salmonella typhi - a bacterial disease spread through contaminated food and water or close contact.
  • Escherichi coli - causes food poisoning, pneumonia, breathing problems, and urinary tract infections 
  • Candida albicans - most commonly associated with yeast infections and meningitis. 
  • Staphylococcus aureus - causes skin infections, pneumonia, heart valve infections, and bone infections.
  • Staphylococcus pyogenes - causes cellulitis, scarlet fever (rash), impetigo, pharyngitis, or erysipelas. Invasive infections can result in necrotizing fasciitis, myositis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
  • Bacillus subtilis - found in anthrax, from eating infected meat, from or inhaling spore-laden dust. It can cause poisoning, meningitis, bacteremia/septicemia, endocarditis, and infections of wounds, the ears, eyes, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa - contracted from contaminated water. It can lead to bloodstream infections, pneumonia (lung infection), urinary tract infections, and surgical wound infections.
______
4. HELPS STRENGTHEN BONES

As a result of: Achiote contains high amounts of calcium.

Which does: Maintains bone health and bone deterioration brought on by aging.

Diseases related to bone weakness:
  • Arthritis 
  • Low bone density
  • osteoporosis, which make bones weak and more likely to break
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta makes bones brittle

______

5. SUPPORTS A HEALTHY PREGNANCY

As a result of: Folate (and high levels of antioxidants and Vitamin C).

Which does: High levels of folate are needed for babies to properly develop in the womb.

Lack of folate during pregnancy can cause: Birth defects.

CULINARY USES

Recipes 
  • Achiote paste to marinate, give meats, fish, poultry a smoky flavor 
  • Achiote oil 
  • Mole sauce 
  • Tamales 
  • Cochinita Pibil 
  • Marinade 
  • Dry spice rub 
  • Oil - steep achiote seeds in oil (achiotina) 
  • Yellow rice 
  • Sofrito 
  • Paella 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Precautions
  • While allergies to annatto are not common, they can occur. Some people with peanut or nut sensitivities have reported having reactions to annatto. 
  • Annatto / Achiote may affect blood sugar levels.
Storing recommendations
  • Skip buying the whole annatto seeds and head straight to buy pre-ground achiote 
  • When stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry, dark location, achiote powder can last up to three years. Keep achiote paste stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a few months. (Kitchen) 

SUMMARY

Why should we eat this food?
Annatto was/is, used as a culinary spice, food colorant, and natural medicine. The most documented medicinal properties are anti-oxidative; but its anti-cancer, hypoglycemic, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties are also being studied. (3)
 
It’s not a new discovery
Annatto has been used for centuries in many parts of the world for the prevention and treatment of a number of heath disorders such as constipation, fevers, heartburn, asthma, scabies, ulcers, diarrhea, stomach upset, skin diseases, measles, anecdotal treatment of diabetes, allergy, leprosy, infectious diseases, burns, measles, gonorrhea, diarrhea, asthma, angina, tumors, skin problems, and urinary infections (oral and topic) (4)

JOIN US

IN PERSON
Authentic Mexican Cooking Experience
We’ve curated a once-in-a-lifetime authentic Mexican cooking class experience you’ll love. We’ll teach you how to best integrate achiote, and other Mayan superfoods, into your diet; so you can nourish your body while keeping your foodie taste buds fully engaged.
Experience available on our upcoming Tulum Retreat. Learn more here.
______
INSTA PALS
#UntetherFromYourRoutine and try adding Achiote to one of your next meals!
______
SPREAD THE WORD
Do your friends know about this delicious superfood? Share and be the first to let them know. 
 

SOURCES

(1) Mercola
(2) Smithsonian
(3) NCBI
(4) NCBI