Acerola-Cherry

Acerola Cherry: Nutrition Content, Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

This fruit goes by many names—Barbados cherry, wild crapemyrtle, and West Indian myrtle, to name a few. However, it is more known to the public as the vitamin C-rich acerola cherry.

This tiny fruit is grown on small shrubs and evergreen acerola trees. They thrive in the warm climates of Central America, South America, Florida, California, and Texas.

These cherries grow to a diameter of 0.5 to 1 inch. They then develop into bright red cherries. These cherries decline quickly after they are picked.

The cherries exhibit unattractive changes about 4 hours after harvest. They ferment quickly and are unusable within 3 to 5 days. When they are frozen, they tend to fall apart as they thaw.

They are best used in juices, syrups, and jams. Its fruit juice, in particular, can be great for your skin

Origins of the Acerola Cherry

Acerola also has a long history as an ornamental plant. It’s been used in the Japanese practice of bonsai. Also in Latin America, it’s frequently used to decorate tables, kitchens, and living rooms.

It’s believed the acerola cherry first began to grow in southern Mexico. Its cultivation quickly spread to other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America as news of its usefulness spread.

Research on the health benefits of Acerola first showed up in the 1940s from Puerto Rican researchers and continues to this day.

Acerola Cherry’s Nutrition Content

Much like the top green superfoods, the acerola cherry is also loaded with healthy vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Below is a complete list.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 32 Kcal 1.5%
Carbohydrates 7.69 g 6%
Protein 0.40 g <1%
Total Fat 0.30 g 1.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g 2.5%
Vitamins
Folates 14 µg 3.5%
Niacin 0.400 mg 2.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.309 mg 6%
Pyridoxine 0.009 mg <1%
Riboflavin 0.060 mg 4.5%
Vitamin A 767 IU 26%
Vitamin C 1677.6 mg 1864%
Electrolytes
Sodium 7 mg 0.5%
Potassium 146 mg 3%
Minerals
Calcium 12 mg 1.2%
Copper 0.086 mg 9%
Iron 0.20 mg 2.5%
Magnesium 18 mg 4.5%
Phosphorous 11 mg 1.5%
Selenium 0.6 µg 1%
Zinc 0.10 mg 1%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

Studies on the Acerola Cherry

There have already been quite a number of published studies on this particular berry, and most of them show impressive and positive results. Let’s go head and discuss a few of these studies.

According to a study done by the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, acerola cherry extract can help stop the growth and spread of lung cancer.

In another study published in 2004 in an issue of Phytotherapy Research, acerola juice extract helps inhibit tumorous cell growth. Also, the cherry can improve the antioxidant capacity of other nutrients when consumed at the same time.

According to the journal Rural Science, which published a study in 2006, the acerola cherry has the highest antioxidant capacity out of 14 different Amazonian berries. And in a similar study made by the journal Plant Foods and Human Nutrition, unripe acerola has a very powerful ability to protect DNA from oxidative stress and can inhibit the free radical DPHH.

Another study made in 2008 in Japan shows that acerola cherry polyphenols have radical scavenging activities as well as inhibitory effects on advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) and alpha-glucosidase.

In 2011, Plant Foods for Human Nutrition showed that this fruit protects the body from oxidative stress. This means it helps the body avoid disease and premature aging.

Acerola Cherry Benefits 

Of course, like all the superfoods the acerola cherry has its own impressive list of benefits for the human body. Read on below to know more.

Aids in Weight Loss

Want to shed a few pounds? The acerola cherry is the perfect go-to snack. Why? First of all, it is low in fat, calories, and sodium. It also speeds up the metabolism and reduces the risk of obesity. This will help you achieve your ideal weight.

Manages Diabetes

Studies show that antioxidants in the acerola cherry can help slow down the release of sugar in the bloodstream. They can also regulate glucose and insulin. The inconsistent rising and falling of these levels is dangerous for diabetics. These antioxidants can also help regulate blood sugar levels. In addition, the polyphenols in the plant prevent the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs).

Prevents Cancer

The high vitamin C content found in the fruit helps reduce the risk of cancer, specifically of the cervix, breast, and skin.

Again, the antioxidants play a huge part in cancer prevention. They fight off harmful free radicals from the body. These free radicals are responsible for the mutation of healthy cells in the body to cancerous cells.

On another note, the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology published a study that found that acerola cherry extract helped stop the growth and spread of lung cancer.

Delays Signs of Aging

For those who want to look younger than they really are, the acerola cherry is your best bet. It has properties that protect against oxidative stress. This causes premature aging.

Its vitamin C content reduces the appearance of wrinkles and dry skin. It can also slow down the process of aging.

Also, the copper content found in these berries helps develop elastin. This promotes firmness in the skin as well as elasticity.

Boosts the Immune System

Vitamins C and A in the acerola cherry take the spotlight in helping the immune system. They help produce white blood cells. These cells are first in line in our body’s defense against foreign particles.

Vitamin C is also a crucial component of collagen. The collagen is responsible for the body to heal itself faster with repairing cells, organs, tissues, and blood vessels from illness or injury.

In addition, it also controls the flow of interferons. Interferons are the chemicals that fight against infections caused by various viruses.

Promotes Heart Health

Adding acerola cherry into your daily diet may help prevent cardiovascular disease. The high amount of vitamin C is also an excellent preventative for heart disease.

Potassium in this fruit dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow. This then reduces blood pressure. This lowers your chances of developing atherosclerosis and also prevents heart attacks and strokes.

Promotes Good Digestion

The dietary fiber in the acerola cherry helps boost digestive health. It also relieves bloating, constipation, cramping, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, and other gastrointestinal issues.

Promotes Eye health

The vitamin A, lutein, and beta-carotene content in the acerola cherry improves vision. They also prevent cataracts from forming and stop retinal hemorrhages. In addition, they also delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration, reduce the risk of retinitis pigmentosa, and improve night vision.

Improves Skin Condition

The high vitamin C content of the cherries helps form collagen, the building block of healthy skin. This keeps it toned and youthful in appearance. In addition, the anthocyanins help prevent inflammation in outer skin tissues, just as they do on the inside of the body.

Internal consumption of acerola extract can also have cosmetic uses. A study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry reports that the acerola cherry can hold back the formation of melanin, which then gives the skin a “lightening” effect.

Other superfoods that are good for our health are listed here.

The Correct Preparation of the Acerola Cherry

Acerola-Cherry-Washing

Photo source: The Elliott Homestead

These are the type of cherries that you can eat immediately after picking them from the trees. However, for safety’s sake, you are encouraged to first wash these cherries thoroughly before consumption.

What you need to do is place them in a bowl and wash them in cold water, making sure not to disturb or take out the stems.

Afterward, drain the water out carefully and pat dry with a soft cloth or a paper towel. ONce they’re thoroughly dry, you can go ahead and enjoy them in your favorite salad, smoothie, punch, juice, you name it. Or you can even munch on these acerola cherries as is.

Take note that these cherries have to be consumed quickly because they tend to spoil fast.

Acerola Cherry Recipes

If you aren’t sure how to use acerola cherries, here are a few acerola cherrie ideas to get you started. Just blend and enjoy!

Acerola-Strawberry Smoothie

Pomegranate-Strawberry-Smoothie

Ingredients:

100 grams frozen acerola puree

6 large strawberries

1 banana (sliced)

2 cups fresh spinach

8 ounces almond milk

ice cubes

Procedure:

Mix everything together in a high-speed blender. Add in the ice cubes one by one to reach desired consistency.

Acerola-Ginger Green Smoothie

Peanut-Lovers-Green-Smoothie

Ingredients:

100 grams frozen acerola puree

1 medium banana (sliced)

¼-inch fresh ginger (peeled and grated)

2 cups fresh spinach

ice cubes

Procedure:

Place everything in a high-power blender (except the ice cubes) and blend thoroughly. Put in the ice cubes gradually for the thickness you want.

Acerola-Chia-Lime Popsicles

Ingredients:

1 cup water

6 cups acerola cherries

3 limes

2 tablespoons chia seeds

10 grams stevia

Procedure:

First, wash the cherries thoroughly. In a high-power blender, mix in the clean berries with 1 cup of water. Blend everything until smooth. With a strainer, separate the solids from the liquid. Put in the acerola cherry liquid back into the clean blender and add in lime juice from the 3 limes, chia seeds, and stevia. Again, blend everything completely. Put the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.

A Word of Caution

The acerola cherry is safe for eating. It is also not an allergenic food. However, some people have reported negative reactions to eating them. These include upset stomachs, sleeplessness, and also insomnia. Having too many acerola cherries can also cause diarrhea.

The high vitamin C content can also be dangerous if you suffer from gout or have kidney stones. Vitamin C can actually boost levels of uric acid.

If you are taking blood thinners, avoid taking in these cherries too. The acerola cherry interacts with blood thinners and hormone medications. It might also cause side effects of nausea, cramps, and diarrhea.

Also, consuming more than 6 grams of acerola cherries per day  causes mild headaches. Other side effects linked to consuming too much of this superfood are dizziness, fatigue, and fainting spells.

It is unknown if using acerola during pregnancy or lactation causes harmful side effects. As a measure of safety, it’s best to consult a physician before taking acerola supplements.

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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