Well, that’s one way to get your attention. Aronia berries are certainly an up-and-coming star in the world of superfruits. As you’ll find out, studies have shown that aronia berries have potential health benefits.
Why? One word: polyphenols.
We all want to eat healthy. Wouldn’t it be nice if eating healthier made us feel better more quickly? Superfruits, or fruits high in polyphenols, may do just that. A whole host of research suggests that certain foods containing polyphenols, including aronia berries, can provide great health benefits.
Aronia berries, which are also known as chokeberries — because of their sour taste — can be found in parts of North America, though certain varieties touted for their antioxidant benefits come from Europe. They grow on ornamental plants or bushes. They’re actually great for landscaping. But more than that, the berries themselves are potential health boosters in a major way. In fact, they are appearing as a key ingredient in many health supplements.
Where Do They Come From?
Aronia melanocarpa, or, simply aronia, is a small, dark, cherry-looking berry plant that originated in the eastern part of North America.1 Aronia grows wild in swamps and in woodlands. In the 1940s, Russia began to cultivate aronia berries for commercial use. In the 1950s, Eastern Europe followed suit.2 Today, aronia berries are grown throughout the U.S.
But why aronia? What makes it so special, aside from the fact that the plant itself is quite attractive in a garden?
Aronia contains high amounts of polyphenols, which have been found to have myriad positive effects on both healthy individuals and those with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.3
What’s a Superfruit?
By now, most of you know about superfoods … but what about superfruits? This is a real thing. These superfruits set themselves apart from other fruits because they’ve been found to have “super” effects on our health. Berries like cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and aronia berries are good sources of polyphenols.4 And aronia is called the superstar superfruit because it contains the highest amount of antioxidants compared to acai berries and blueberries. The antioxidants found in aronia may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.5,6 In fact, a scientific study revealed that aronia was at the top of the list among more than 100 foods that were tested for antioxidant properties.7
No wonder it’s called superstar superfruit!
The antioxidants found in aronia berries are mostly polyphenols. Polyphenols are the most abundant type of antioxidant found in our daily diet. They work hand-in-hand with other antioxidants found in our food, including vitamins C and E. Together, they help protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress.8 In one experiment, it was found that aronia extract can reduce the oxidative stress in blood cells of patients with breast cancer.9
Aronia berries also contain compounds called phenols. Studies have shown that phenols play a vital role in the prevention and treatment of some serious illnesses.10
The Power of Polyphenols
Polyphenols are largely found in food and drinks, such as jams, cereals, wine, and coffee, and in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, particularly berries. Over the past 10 years, research on the effect of polyphenols in the human diet has increased. In these studies, it has been discovered that polyphenols may play a significant role in preventing age-related diseases.11 Aronia berries are believed to have more antioxidant power than blueberries, prunes, cranberries, cherries, apples, and oranges.12
Polyphenols are used in certain sunscreens, because research has shown that they are good at inhibiting UV radiation from sunlight.13 Polyphenols may help to prevent the deterioration of various tissues in the body. They play a significant role in anti-aging.14 Research has shown that polyphenols can promote cardiovascular health.15
Studies have shown that there is a long-term, beneficial effect to consuming polyphenols in people with high blood pressure.16 One study using aronia extract showed that it may have a beneficial effect on those with multiple sclerosis (MS).17
Latest Health Studies
Several new studies have sought to solidify the sour berry’s role as a superfruit with potential health benefits. The results are certainly eye-opening.
One study surmised a possible health benefit of aronia berries (and other berries containing polyphenols) for certain ailments and inflammation.18 Another health study showed that adding polyphenols in your diet may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.19 Aronia was found to show anti-inflammatory results in human adult endothelial cells (HAEC). Scientists have also found that several compounds found in aronia berries are natural inflammation and disease fighters. The research suggests that aronia berries or aronia berry extract, may be helpful in fighting the development of abnormal cell growth in the lungs and colon.20
When a fruit or vegetable is vibrantly purple, it contains a particular antioxidant known as anthocyanin, a plant pigment. Chokeberries contained the highest level of anthocyanin of all berries tested in one particular study.21
Research has shown that anthocyanins may provide a wide range of potential in human health, as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory, an antimicrobial, and perhaps even to ward off the growth of abnormal cells. They have also displayed an effect on blood vessels, platelets, and lipoproteins – which all have an effect on the heart. 22
Speaking of antioxidants, chokeberries are high in dietary carotenoids, beta- carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin – some of of the most powerful antioxidants out there – which are able to reduce oxidative stress on the eyes. Beta-carotene is able to convert to vitamin A, while lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective for eyes as they have photo-filtering effects, absorbing damaging blue light that enters the eye. 23 In today’s world, where we are constantly glued to our “blue-light” screens, this is particularly important. Used together, vitamin A and lutein may also assist those suffering from degeneration of the retina by slowing down the speed of vision-loss. 24
Aronia berries are also ripe with vitamin C, which stimulates the production of collagen (for younger-looking skin) and may also be useful as a weapon to help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.25
Growing Aronia Berries
Growing vegetables is a common hobby, but it seems that less people tend to grow fruit, especially berries. Aronia berries are actually a really easy shrub to grow and, of course, you get a lifetime supply of free berries!
Aronia shrubs (or chokeberry plant) come in several varieties – the black chokeberry, red chokeberry, and a hybrid known as the purple chokeberry. The names refer to, as you may have guessed, the color of the berries.
If you’re keen to try growing your own aronia, the black chokeberry is the one to target. It has one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any fruit, and even more antioxidants than the red chokeberry. A black chokeberry species known as “Viking” is readily available, and you’ll find that it’s a lot less tart. It also has a stunning display of red and orange foliage during fall.
Black chokeberry is a deciduous shrub which can grow up to 6 feet tall and spread up to 6 feet wide. Its fruit is ripe and in-season for eating during fall and winter, and it will grow in both wet and dry soils (handy if you live in California!)
How to Consume Aronia Berries
Remember the first time you tried a fresh cranberry? I’m sure you’re puckering up just thinking about it. Well, the chokeberry is as tart as the cranberry (is that where they got the name?) so you’re probably not going to enjoy them straight off the bush.
Aronia berries can be used fresh or dried (and, like cranberries, they often taste best dried) in just about any way you’d use other berries – salads, muffins, smoothies, and even tea. Freezing actually reduces their astringent flavor if you’d like to eat them fresh.
Some winemakers are now using aronia berries to even make wines, as they are naturally high in flavorful tannins and can add body and color to a wine. Tannins are the antioxidant-rich polyphenols that we spoke of earlier.
Very Fine Berry
You can call the aronia berry whatever you want – a super berry, a superfood, or a superfruit. Just make sure the word “super” is in there, because it contains two to three times more antioxidant properties than any other berries. If there ever was a fruit on the verge of becoming a superstar, aronia is most certainly it!
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2. Aronia Berries. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center Website.Revised October 2013.
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6. Aronia berry: Rebranding helps a new superfood catch on. CBS news Website. Published July 14, 2014.
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9.Kedzierska M, Olas B, Wachowicz B et al. An Extract from Berries of Aronia melanocarpa Modulates the Generation of Superoxide Anion Radicals in Blood Platelets from Breast Cancer Patients. Planta Medica. 2009;75(13):1405-1409. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1185718.
10.Huang W, Cai Y, Zhang Y. Natural Phenolic Compounds From Medicinal Herbs and Dietary Plants: Potential Use for Cancer Prevention. Nutrition and Cancer. 2009;62(1):1-20. doi:10.1080/01635580903191585.
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17.Broncel M, Kozirog M, Duchnowicz P, Koter-Michalak M, Sikora J, Chojnowska-Jezierska J. Aronia melanocarpa extract reduces blood pressure, serum endothelin, lipid, and oxidative stress marker levels in patients with metabolic syndrome.Med Sci Monit. 2010 Jan;16(1):CR28-34.
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