When it comes to fruit, acerola cherry stands out as a true gem. Also known as Barbados cherry or West Indian cherry, this tiny fruit packs a powerful punch when it comes to health benefits. If you’re like me and have never heard of the acerola cherry before, it’s worth learning about and incorporating into your diet.
In this blog post, I’ll explore the numerous benefits of acerola cherry, including its immune-boosting properties, overall health benefits, and some delicious recipes for you to try using this tropical superfruit.
What is Acerola Cherry?
Acerola Cherry is a small, vibrant red or yellowish fruit that grows on the acerola cherry tree (Malpighia emarginata). This tropical fruit is native to the warm regions of the Americas, particularly in the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. Acerola cherry is renowned for its exceptional nutritional profile and health benefits. It is becoming more popular as a supplement lately, either as a powder or liquid. Acerola cherries have a sweet-tart flavor, which can vary in intensity depending on their ripeness. The distinct flavor is often described as a combination of cherry, raspberry, and citrus notes.
Nutrition Facts of Acerola Cherry
Acerola cherries are full of beneficial nutrients. According to the USDA, 100 grams of raw acerola fruit (about one cup) has about:
- 32 calories
- 0.5 grams protein
- 8 grams carbohydrate
- 1 gram fiber
- 1680 milligrams vitamin C (1,800 percent DV)
- 38 milligrams vitamin A (15 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams copper (10 percent DV)
- Pantothenic acid 0.309 (6 percent DV)
- Riboflavin 0.06 mg (5 percent DV)
- 18 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
- 146 mg potassium (3 percent DV)
- Thiamin 0.02 mg (2 percent DV)
According to studies, the greatest nutritional value is found in organically grown acerola cherries (source).
Acerola Cherries: An Immune Boosting Powerhouse
Acerola cherry is celebrated for its exceptional vitamin C content. In fact, it contains one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C found in any natural fruit. The vitamin C content in acerola cherries can range from 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams per 100 grams of fruit. To put that in perspective, that’s about 50 – 100 times more Vitamin C than an orange or lemon!
Vitamin C is renowned for its immune-boosting properties. It plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system by enhancing the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections. Regular consumption of this tropical fruit can help you ward off common colds, flu, and other illnesses. When I’m trying to boost my immune system, I like to supplement acerola cherry rather than a vitamin c supplement.
Beyond vitamin C, acerola cherry is rich in powerful antioxidants, such as flavonoids and carotenoids. These antioxidants help combat free radicals in the body, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to chronic diseases. By reducing oxidative stress, acerola cherry contributes to a healthier immune system and overall well-being.
Chronic inflammation is linked to a host of health issues, including autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular diseases. Acerola cherry contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body. This anti-inflammatory effect can further support the immune system by ensuring it is not overburdened with chronic inflammation.
A Boost for Skin Health
The high vitamin C content in acerola cherry is not only beneficial for your internal health but also for your skin. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, which keeps the skin firm and youthful. Additionally, its antioxidant properties can help protect the skin from premature aging and dark spots caused by UV radiation and pollution.
Other Health Benefits of Acerola Cherry
I mentioned benefits for immune function, but these cherries also are:
- Rich in Nutrients:Acerola cherry is not just a vitamin C source; it’s a treasure trove of essential nutrients. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3, as well as minerals like iron, calcium, and phosphorus. These nutrients collectively support various bodily functions, from maintaining healthy bones to aiding in digestion.
- Cancer Prevention:The antioxidants present in acerola cherry also play a role in cancer prevention. By neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress, acerola cherry can help lower the risk of developing cancer. While it’s not a substitute for medical treatment, incorporating this superfruit into your diet can contribute to your overall health.
- Heart Health:Acerola cherry’s high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants can benefit your cardiovascular system. These compounds help reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and reducing arterial inflammation. Regular consumption of acerola cherry may contribute to better heart health.
- Improved Digestion:The fiber content in acerola cherry aids in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Additionally, the vitamin C content supports the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans who may be at risk of iron deficiency.
- Weight Management:The low-calorie and high-fiber content of acerola cherry makes it a smart choice for those looking to manage their weight. The fiber helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
How to Add Acerola Cherry to your diet
Since this small fruit only grows in tropical climates, chances are you don’t have access to these cherries as fresh fruit. Not to worry though, because there are still many other ways to get the benefits of acerola cherries. You can find acerola cherries in:
- Powder form acerola supplements
- Liquid form acerola extract supplements
- Fruit juice
- Dried cherries
- Frozen cherries
Look for these forms of Acerola cherries at health food stores, or at some farmers markets.
Recipe Idea: Acerola Cherry Energy Bites
- 1 cup dried dates
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup dried acerola cherries
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- In a food processor, combine the dates, almonds, oats, dried acerola cherries, shredded coconut, honey, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.
- Pulse until the mixture comes together and forms a sticky dough.
- Roll the dough into bite-sized balls and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Idea: Acerola Cherry Salad Dressing
- 1/2 cup fresh acerola cherry juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the acerola cherry juice, olive oil, honey, and Dijon mustard until well combined.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle over your favorite salad for a burst of flavor and awesome health benefits.
Recipe Idea: Acerola Cherry Smoothie Bowl
- 1 cup frozen acerola cherry puree
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup granola
- Fresh berries for topping
- Honey for drizzling (optional)
- Blend the frozen acerola cherry puree, banana, and Greek yogurt until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl.
- Top with granola, fresh berries, and a drizzle of honey if desired.
- Enjoy a nutritious and refreshing start to your day!
If you like smoothie bowls, try this recipe.
Risks & Side Effects
Acerola cherries are a nutritious and generally safe fruit to consume as part of a balanced diet. However, like many foods, they may have some potential risks and side effects, particularly when consumed in excessive quantities or by individuals with specific health conditions. Most of the considerations have to do with excessive amounts of vitamin c.
- Gastrointestinal Upset: Acerola cherries are rich in vitamin C, which can have a mild laxative effect when consumed in large doses. If you eat a significant quantity of acerola cherries or consume high-dose vitamin C supplements, you may experience digestive discomfort, including diarrhea, stomach cramps, or gas. To avoid this, it’s best to consume acerola cherries in moderation.
- Kidney Stones: Acerola cherries are high in vitamin C, which can be converted to oxalate in the body. Excessive oxalate intake can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in susceptible individuals. If you have a history of kidney stones or are prone to them, it’s advisable to limit your intake of high-oxalate foods like acerola cherries.
- Interactions with Medications: High doses of vitamin C from acerola cherries or supplements may interact with certain medications. For example, vitamin C can interfere with the absorption of iron supplements, which might be a concern for individuals with iron-deficiency anemia. Additionally, it can affect the metabolism of some drugs, such as anticoagulants and chemotherapy medications. If you are taking any prescription medications, consult your healthcare provider to ensure there are no potential interactions.
- Tooth Enamel Erosion: The acidity of acerola cherries, like many fruits, can potentially contribute to tooth enamel erosion over time. To minimize this risk, it’s advisable to consume acerola cherries as part of a meal and practice good oral hygiene, such as rinsing your mouth with water after eating acidic foods.
- Blood Sugar: Acerola cherries have a naturally sweet taste, which may cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels if consumed in large quantities, especially by individuals with diabetes. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels and be mindful of their carbohydrate intake, including the sugars from fruits like acerola cherries.
In conclusion, acerola cherries are an excellent supplement to add to your natural medicine cabinet! With its immune-boosting properties, numerous health benefits, and versatility in recipes, Acerola cherry is undoubtedly a tropical superfruit worth exploring. From enhancing your immune system to supporting heart health and offering a range of essential nutrients, acerola cherry is a nutritional powerhouse.
How do you use acerola cherry? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.