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My holiday meal came from where? 13 Foods you didn’t know were from the Amazon

by Thomas Moran |

Every day when you eat, do you ever wonder where that food came from? Eating locally-grown, fresh foods is usually best but sometimes there’s nothing like an import. For example, food that comes from the Amazon. The Amazon rainforest is unlike any other habitat in the world and is home to some of the most incredible ingredients on earth, whether you are talking your Thanksgiving feast or your morning beauty routine.  Just make sure the ingredients you choose are sustainably harvested and that you trust the source.

Many of these foods are responsible for those impeccable Brazilian beauty secrets, and used as much for beauty and wellness as for physical sustenance. Whatever the case, chances are you’ve likely had at least one of these foods from the Amazon and didn’t even know it!

  1. Coffee

orange mug and saucer with spilled coffee beansYou’re not alone if you can’t start your day without coffee. The beans grow best under the shady canopy provided by the rainforests of Amazon. Along with the mild climate, it is the ideal location for coffee to thrive. And for you, coffee hosts many benefits for you to thrive too. Coffee can also have a huge impact on the environment, with wide swathes of forest destroyed to provide that morning cup o’ joe. Make sure you know the source, and that you look for certifications such as the Rainforest Alliance.

  1. Bananas

Bananas are the perfect portable snack on-the-go. The banana tree is native to the Amazon. Eating bananas helps give you more potassium which lowers your blood pressure and protects you from heart disease. Did you know that in Brazil, there are more than 100 different types? My favorite at the markets is the small apple banana, kind of a rose gold color that tastes much like an apple.

  1. Açaí

acai powder and spoonful of acai berries on distressed wood backgroundThis antioxidant-rich berry is all the rage in the superfood world. Revered for medicinal purposes in the Amazon, it’s easy to see why the people there were hoping this secret didn’t get out. Açaí is definitely something to add to your morning smoothie. The day after last Thanksgiving, we rolled ourselves out of bed, and walked to the local shop for an açaí bowl, which made us feel a bit more healthy than leftover stuffing and sandwiches (that came later!).

  1. Yucca

It also goes by the name cassava, but whatever you choose to call it, this dense veggie is a very healthy way to get more fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. In the Amazon, it is used medicinally, and actually has a ton of uses.  For us here in America, it is mostly a delicious alternative to ordinary French fries.

  1. Sweet potatoes

raw sweet potatoesOriginally from Central and South America, this side dish staple of every Thanksgiving dinner table across America is something we’re all sweet on. This is the best kind of healthy food since it tastes so naturally sweet yet is an outstanding source of vitamins and minerals including antioxidant beta-carotene. Bet you didn’t know sweet potatoes were an exotic import from the Amazon. Now you can dazzle your family with this fact!

  1. Chocolate

That chocolate you love actually grows on trees. Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, something that grows in the wilds of Central and South America. It’s a forest-friendly plant for the Amazonians, and one that yields some of the sweetest treasures. Again, this is a large commodity product that can be responsible for deforestation, not just in the Amazon, but in other rainforests as well. We all breathe better when you #FollowTheFrog and choose certified sources of chocolate.

  1. Nuts

Need a healthy snack to help you power through the mid-morning or post-lunch? Cashews and Brazil nuts both come from the tropical Amazonian region. You can even set out a dish of them to go with cocktails before your Thanksgiving dinner. In Brazil, cashew juice is popular, and sold in every grocery store and restaurant, so if you get a chance, drink your cashews! Interesting note - Cashe comes from a Tupian word meaning "the nut that produces itself".

  1. Vanilla

cinnamon sticks and vanilla powderBaking up your best pies for Thanksgiving? You’ll probably need some vanilla. Vanilla pods grow in the rainforest and add beautiful sweetness without using sugar. Plus, they’re a great ingredient for clean beauty products too.

  1. Cinnamon

Another one for the pie, cinnamon, often comes from the rainforests of Brazil. It’s a fantastic anti-inflammatory plus it adds a warming and sweet flavor. It is common in other rainforest areas as well – if you ever have the chance to walk through a cinnamon stand in the rainforests of Vietnam, it is well worth it.

  1. Pineapple

Having visited Hawaii before, this was a bit of a surprise to me when I first visited Brazil. Did you happen to have some in that Pineapple Stuffing recipe? Originally from southern Brazil, they were cultivated throughout the Americas, eventually finding their way to the giant Dole plantations of Hawaii via Columbus in 1493 (OK, not directly, but that is too long of a story for this short blog).  Often served grilled with a bit of cinnamon sugar, these are a dessert treat you can feel pretty good about.

  1. Tobacco

Grampa lighting up that pipe after your Thanksgiving feast? No, not that kind of pipe! Thanks to the Amazon, he can do that. Tobacco originated in the Amazon, and was cultivated as early as the 1600’s, noted by accounts of Europeans during contact during that time.  

  1. Turkey

dressed thanksgiving turkeySeriously? Even the turkey? Turkeys were first cultivated in the South and Central American jungles by the Mayan people. In fact, in Brazil, the turkey is called a “peru”, due to the fact that it came from that side of the continent. Turkeys have been domesticated for close to 3,000 years!

  1. Pepper

And finally, something you probably shake onto just about everything you cook and eat, pepper, comes from the Amazon region too. This climate is perfect for the growth of all kinds of peppers which are no doubt the spice of life, from black pepper to cayenne and other hot peppers.

There are many more foods that come from the Amazon, and I could go on. In your clean beauty products, you’ll find the key to unlocking Brazilian beauty secrets. Brazil nut and coconut oil are often included in moisturizers, shampoos, and other beauty products. They’re even in medicines too – approximately 25% of modern day medicines are derived from rainforests like the #Amazon.  Keep an eye out for these unique ingredients from the rainforest for your best beauty inside and out – just make sure they are #sustainable and #fair.

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