Chicha Limeña manufactures a commercial form of Peruvian punch called chicha, and Hispanics who might have been purchasing this product in New York City may have to go without for a while.
The New York Attorney General contacted Chicha Limeña, instructing the distributor it can no longer make claims that one of the beverage’s ingredients–water, sugar cane, purple maize extract, pineapple, lemon, cinnamon and cloves–fights cancer and diabetes.
And while the commercial company can no longer make such health claims to customers, plenty of people, particularly those who grew up with the ancient beverage known as chicha morada, believe the punch does provide a number of health benefits.
For thousands of years, the people of the Andes have soaked purple corn to make a refreshing drink called chicha, which advocates say gets its health benefits from the high number of anthocyanins found in purple corn. Anthocyanins are the compounds in fruits and vegetables responsible for color, but recently they have been indicated as having benefits similar to antioxidants.
“Over 300 structurally distinct anthocyanins have been identified in nature. Anthocyanins are one class of flavonoid compounds, which are widely distributed plant polyphenols. Flavonols, flavan-3-ols, flavones, flavanones, and flavanonols are additional classes of flavonoids that differ in their oxidation state from the anthocyanins. Solutions of these compounds are colorless or pale yellow,” states Ronald E. Wrolstad, Ph.D. from Oregon State University.
“Some people believe that eventually we will have a recommended minimum daily requirement for these dietary antioxidants. Our knowledge of the anthocyanin and polyphenolic composition of many fruits, vegetables and cereals is incomplete, and little is known about the effects of processing and cooking on these substances. It is also uncertain how much of the particular flavonoids are absorbed into the bloodstream and get to various cells,” he added.
But despite all the unknowns, evidence suggests flavonoids and anthocyanins have positive effects on a person’s health.
So, while Chicha Limeña may not be able to claim its beverages can cure chronic illness, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t enjoy the Peruvian beverage. In fact, it is possible to make chicha at home as many Hispanic generations have before now. Here is a simple recipe from The Kitchn: