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100% Colombian Guarapo (Sugarcane Juice)

12/01/2015 15:43 GMT | Updated 12/03/2015 09:59 GMT

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Sugarcane is a giant, thick, perennial grass cultivated worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions for its sweet sap, a major source of sugar and molasses. The fresh juice of raw sugarcane is called Guarapo (in Spanish). Guarapo or sugarcane juice is served throughout the country of Colombia with different varieties throughout Central and South America. The traditional Colombian guarapo is freshly pressed sugarcane and limes mixed with ice. It is sometimes made into an alcoholic beverage similar to Chicha (a fermented Peruvian beverage made from maize). Guarapo is a perfect balance of sweet with the fresh taste of lime--perfect for quenching the thirst of the tropical Colombian climate.

On my recent trip to Medellin, Colombia, it was common to see street vendors in parks and plazas operating a sugarcane press to make the fresh juice. One person feeds the cane and limes into the press and discards the used pieces. A second person sits below where the juice feeds through a sieve and into a bucket filled with ice cubes to keep the juice cold.

A 5-ounce serving of raw sugarcane juice has about 180 calories and 30 grams of simple carbohydrates. Sugarcane juice is rich in antioxidants, namely polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of phytonutrient that provide protection to the body's cells by defending cells against free radicals and toxins found in the environment. A study published in 2014 in "Food Chemistry" found that while antioxidant levels varied in different varieties of sugarcane, all varieties showed high levels of antioxidants. However, the high heat of processing can destroy some antioxidants, so different types of sugarcane juice may contain varying quantities of antioxidants.

Click here: Guarapo De Cana to watch a video showing how Colombians make fresh sugarcane juice.

I love that wherever you go in Colombia, the juices are freshly pressed from local fruits--no pasteurized or bottled juices with added sugar or artificial flavor packets! My favorite is the fresh strawberry juice.

Pick up a copy of Layne's book: Beyond The Mediterranean Dietfor a practical approach to eating right with 50 simple, delicious and healthful recipes!

Buen Provecho!