A very rich source of vitamin C, Acerola (Malpighia emarginata) is a tropical fruit bearing shrub belonging to the malpighiaceae family. Native to Southern Mexico, South America and Central America, it is popular for its edible fruits that has amazing health and medicinal values. The other common names include Barbados cherry, wild crepe myrtle and West Indian cherry. The ripe fruit is yellow – orange or bright red in color and has a wonderful aroma and a sweet and sour taste. In addition to vitamin C, Acerola fruit is also high in various other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which makes it a tremendously nutritious and healthy food.
Nutritional profile of Acerola
Acerola is a fat free, low calorie fruit. A 100 grams servings of this fruit provides only 32 calories. As mentioned before, acerola is best known for its high vitamin C content. It contains more than 13 times the vitamin C found in orange. Vitamin A is another nutrient that is present in good amounts in this fruit. The berries also contain small amounts of B complex vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, folate and pantothenic acid. Acerola contains various polyphenolic compounds that possess strong antioxidant properties. These compounds eliminates the negative effects of free radicals and protects your body from aging, degenerative diseases, inflammation and life threatening diseases like cancer. In addition to these nutrients, acerola also contains essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and copper.
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Health benefits of Acerola
Not only is this fruit low in calories and fat, it is also extremely nutritious and healthy. Acerola has been proven to show numerous health benefits – improve immunity, enhance metabolism, improve vision, reduce blood pressure, reduce weight, to name a few. Let us take a closer look at a few of the health benefits of Acerola:
- Acerola is good for diabetics
Acerola is an excellent source of antioxidant polyphenols that helps to keep the blood sugar levels under control. Studies indicate that these compounds regulate blood glucose by slowing down the release of glucose in the blood stream. This helps in preventing unnecessary spikes and drops in the blood sugar levels, which is dangerous for people suffering from diabetes. It has also been found that the regular consumption of Acerola can even prevent the onset of diabetes. A study on the effects of acerola juice in the glycemic profile and lipid metabolism in rats showed that when diabetic induced rats were treated with the juice of acerola, a significant decrease in the levels of glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol occurred. An increase in HDL or good cholesterol levels were also observed. According to this study, acerola juice may have the potential to help in treating as well as preventing diabetes and its associated complications.
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- Acerola offers immune system benefits
The regular intake of acerola cherries can help improve the functioning of your immune system. This fruit contains high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which stimulate the production of new white blood cells, which play a vital role in destroying the foreign particles and microbes that invade your body and cause diseases. By amping up the immune strength, acerola protects your body against infections and diseases.
- Acerola in skin care
The presence of high amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C in acerola, makes it extremely beneficial for the skin. In fact, various popular skin care brands have started incorporating the extracts of acerola in many of their skin care products. Free radical damage of skin cells can accelerate the aging of skin. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has the ability to neutralize the negative effects of these free radicals and prevent the appearance of aging signs like fine lines, dark spots and wrinkles. It increases the production of elastin and collagen, which in turn improves the elasticity and suppleness of the skin. The regular consumption of acerola helps improve the brightness and tone of the skin. The nutrients in acerola hydrates the skin and improves its ability to retain moisture. The vitamin A present in acerola nourishes your skin, protects your skin from sun damage and promotes speedy wound healing and recovery.
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- Acerola fights against cancer
Acerola is rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoid compounds that show strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a major role in eliminating the harmful effects of free radicals that cause DNA damage and bring about cell mutations leading to dangerous diseases like cancer. According to a 2002 study issued in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, Acerola may be helpful in protecting against lung cancer. It has been found that the extract obtained from acerola helps in slowing down the spread of lung cancer by regulating the abnormal growth of cells. Studies also reveal that organic extracts of acerola showed excellent cytotoxic activity against human oral squamous cell carcinoma (HSC-2) and human submandibular gland carcinoma (HSG). It also showed higher tumor specific cytotoxicity and higher multidrug resistance (MDR) reversal activity. The results of the study suggests that the MDR reversal and tumor specific cytotoxic activity of acerola cherries may be useful in the treatment of cancer.
- Anti-aging benefits of Acerola
Acerola is one of the best anti-aging fruits available in the world. This property of acerola can be attributed to the presence of high amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants. These nutrients slow down the process of aging by helping your body fight against free radical damage and stress. Vitamin C stimulates the production of collagen that improves the elasticity and suppleness of the skin, thus giving you a youthful appearance.
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- Acerola is good for digestion
Foods containing fiber improve digestion and help prevent various kinds of digestive disorders. Although Acerola is not a rich source of fiber, whatever little amount of fiber it contains is sufficient to give your digestive health a boost. The other nutrients in the fruit such as vitamins and minerals also improve the balance of your gut flora and promote better digestion.
- Acerola boosts eye health
Acerola is rich in carotenoids such as lutein, beta-carotene and beta- cryptoxanthin, all of which provide beneficial effects to the eyes. These nutrients not only improve your eye health but also can help improve night vision, prevent the development of cataract, delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration and reduce the risk of conditions like retinitis pigmentosa. Studies have confirmed that the amount of carotenoid present in acerola is comparable to the amount contained in fruits like papaya and tomatoes.
- Acerola keeps the heart healthy
Acerola acts as a cardiotonic and helps strengthen the heart and keep it healthy. It is an excellent source of potassium, which is a vasodilator that dilates the blood vessels and facilitates the easy flow of blood. This helps reduce blood pressure and lowers the stress on the cardiovascular system. This fruit also has the amazing ability of lowering the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides in the blood. Acerola is also high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress by fighting off the harmful free radicals. These properties of acerola is thus beneficial in protecting the heart against conditions like atherosclerosis and heart attacks.
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- Acerola promotes weight loss
Acerola is a low calorie, low fat fruit that can be consumed as a perfect snack when you are on a weight loss diet. This fruit is capable of increasing the metabolism rate, which in turns leads to the burning of extra calories. Consuming acerola cherry on a regular basis is thus a great way to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy weight.
- Acerola and hair benefits
Packed with a wide range of nutrients, acerola offers many benefits to your hair as well. Acerola is an ingredient in hair care products as it helps in reducing and preventing hair loss. It contains flavonoids and carotenoids that promote cell regeneration, which makes it an effective remedy for hair loss. The nutrients in acerola stimulates the hair follicles and supports hair growth. It also inhibits hair fall and may even help reverse the loss of hair. Acerola hydrates your hair, rejuvenates it and gives it a healthy and shiny appearance. Using acerola cherry powder supplement is an effective, natural and safe way to prevent hair loss.
- Acerola enhances your mood
Studies suggest that vitamin C has the power to improve your mood and reduce mental problems like stress, anxiety and depression. Since acerola is a rich source of vitamin C, its regular consumption can help elevate your mood. Vitamin C increases the transport of blood through the microvascular system, which is very important because the brain cells receive oxygen and nutrients through some of these microvascular blood vessels. Research indicates that damage to these blood vessels can affect the anxiety and mood levels. These results show that eating vitamin C rich foods like acerola can boost your mood and prevent stress and anxiety.
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Not only is Acerola a delicious fruit, but they contain the highest amount of vitamin C when compared to other cherries. Vitamin C boosts your immune system and being an antioxidant, it helps fight against the free radicals and prevent many serious health problems. Acerola cherries deteriorate very quickly. Within 4 to 5 hours after they are harvested, you will notice changes in the fruit that are somewhat unappealing. They start to ferment within a few days after harvest and become totally unusable. Unlike most other fruits they don’t keep well when frozen. Due to their highly perishable nature, chances are that you will find them only in juices, jams and syrups or as supplements.