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The Health Benefits of Acerola Cherry

 

Acerola cherries may be small in size, you’d be surprised, this superfruit is a vitamin C powerhouse and rich in other beneficial nutrients. Learn why you should consider adding acerola cherry to your regimen as we discuss the health benefits and its incredible nutritional properties.

  • Acerola Cherry contains 30 x more vitamin C than oranges.
  • Packed with essential nutrients including carotenoids, B vitamins, A vitamin, minerals flavonoids and anthocyanins.
  • Rich source of potent antioxidants and phytonutrients which may be beneficial in addressing and preventing diseases associated with oxidative damage.
  • Just 3 acerola cherries would provide more than the daily minimum requirement of vitamin C for an adult.

What is acerola cherry?

Acerola cherry, (Malpighia glabra), is a plant that is native to the Americas.  The shrub flowers from April to November, with the fruit ripening in the 3–4 weeks following flowering.  It produces cherries measuring 1–4 cm in diameter, which appear green at first, then changes to orange-red and to a final bright red colour on full maturation.

Organic Acerola Cherries are raised by farmers in Brazil, who work largely in a non-mechanised fashion within a framework that promotes forest sustainability and is Soil Association certified organic.  This manner of production produces acerola cherries that are extremely rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, in fact, acerola cherries are one of the richest known natural sources of vitamin C.  The fresh fruit can contain up to 4500mg vitamin C per 100g, which is around 30-50 times than that of orange or lemon.

What is acerola cherry good for?

Despite containing a tremendous amount of vitamin C, acerola cherries contain several nutritional properties:

Packed with phytonutrients
Phytonutrients identified in acerola cherry include, carotenoids, phenolics, flavonoids, and anthocyanins that possess numerous beneficial properties.  The fruit also contains pro-vitamin A as carotenoids, which means that they are transformed into vitamin A as and when the body requires the nutrient, besides vitamins B1, B2, B3, and the carrier protein albumin, plus the minerals iron, phosphorus, and calcium.  Phenolic compounds are one of the key secondary metabolites that have diverse structures and subsequently diverse beneficial functions that are present ubiquitously in plants. The major phenolics present in acerola are in the form of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins.  These compounds are useful to combat oxidative damage alongside antioxidant nutrients.

Strong pectin content
Acerola cherry can aid digestive health. Pectin is a resistant fibre, a methylated ester of polygalacturonic acid that constitutes about one-third of the cell wall dry substance in acerola fruit and exerts a potent prebiotic effect.  Prebiotic fibres are fermented by beneficial bacteria present in the large intestine to produce beneficial compounds that support immunity and signal for beneficial actions throughout the body.

High levels of malic acid
Among the organic acids, malic acid represents 32% of the total acids present in acerola, whereas citric acid and tartaric acid are both present in minor amounts.  These compounds are known to assist the absorption of minerals.

Rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is required for immune function, collagen production, and carnitine synthesis which plays a role in transforming fats into energy.  Vitamin C plays a role in neurotransmitter production, in fact one study showed that supplemental vitamin C performed equally to an antidepressant medication, fluoxetine, in restoring lowered mood. It is considered that the consumption of just three acerola cherries would provide more than the daily minimum requirement of vitamin C for an adult. 

Overall, acerola is a rich source of potent antioxidants like vitamin C and phytonutrients which may be beneficial in addressing or preventing various diseases associated with oxidative damage.

Is acerola cherry better than ascorbic acid?

When a food is consumed in its original state (rather than processed), more nutrients can be absorbed by the body. In the case of acerola cherry, particularly if the fruit is sourced organically, the nutritional content goes beyond just increased vitamin C content. There are added nutritional benefits. The fruit will provide bioflavonoids, minerals, vitamins, trace minerals alongside beneficial organic acids.  These nutrients are known to work in synergy with vitamin C in terms of absorption and activity.  Therefore, naturally sourced organic acerola cherry could be preferable alternative to ascorbic acid alone.

What are the main health benefits?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human health as demonstrated in history when sailors developed scurvy through a lack of vitamin C rich foods while away at sea for long periods. 

It aids the body’s natural defence system. Vitamin C is vital for normal immune function and it supports cellular functions of both the immediate and antibody producing stages of the immune response.  

Of importance is that vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and a higher susceptibility to infections.  In turn, infections significantly impact vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation.  Subsequently, trials show that vitamin C supplementation appears to be able to both prevent and treat infections.  The prevention of infection is considered to require a dietary vitamin C intake that provides at least 200mg daily, whereas an established infection may require significantly higher doses, suggested to be in the range of 1000-2000mg daily.

Vitamin C supports both skin integrity and the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract and blood vessels to form a barrier against infection-causing bacteria and environmental toxins. 

Additionally, vitamin C can donate electrons and thus, quell oxidative damage, this is defined as antioxidant activity.  Finally, vitamin C shows evidence of blood glucose balancing, antimicrobial, liver protective and blood fat balancing effects. 

What are the benefits of supplementing with freeze-dried acerola?

A great option for acerola is as an organic freeze-dried powder.   Freeze-drying is a technique that gently dehydrates the acerola without changing the properties of the plant nutrients and preserves the minerals, vitamins flavour and aroma of the fruit. This technique is considered the gold standard for the preservation of vitamin C.

A freeze-dried acerola powder makes the fruit an ideal ingredient for smoothies, cooled porridge or mixed in water or juices.  Ultimately, as a powder a therapeutic dose of vitamin C would be provided in one teaspoon.

What should I look out for when buying supplements? 

The highest quality food supplements will provide 100% nutrition, this means that they are free from fillers, additives, sugar and flavourings.  Such compounds are non-nutritive compounds known as excipients that are used to speed up the manufacture of food supplements or mask the natural taste and colour of the nutrients. 

The best way to check for excipients is to read the ingredients list and look out for names such as magnesium stearate or titanium dioxide.  Finally, fruit is at its best when raised organically, without the use of chemicals.  The Soil Association are the gold standard in organic certification, and you can identify their standards by their logo.  Certified organic means that the fruit are raised without the use of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers, in a manner that is protective of the environment and wildlife.

To seek further advice about nutrition and lifestyle tips, visit your nearest independent health food store. To find your local one, visit www.findahealthstore.com

 

 

 

References

 

Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD000980.

Ran et al. 2018. Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials. BioMed Research International, ID 1837634. 




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