Aronia berries, also known as black chokeberries, have been gaining popularity among health-conscious consumers looking to add more superfoods to their diets. The small dark berries of the Aronia melanocarpa plant are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and anthocyanins, and offer wonderful health benefits for those who want to improve their health through better nutrition.
Fresh aronia berries are commonly used to make juice, jam, syrup, and wine. Dried aronia berries, which are available in many health food stores, can be eaten as a healthy snack, added to muesli, or used in muffins and other baked goodies. In some countries, dried aronia berries are used to make antioxidant-rich herbal tea. If you haven’t yet been convinced that you should throw a bag of organic dried aronia berries in your shopping cart next time you visit your favorite health food store, continue reading. In this article, we explain in detail why aronia berries are so good for you and how you can reap the nutritional and health benefits of this superfood.
The Aronia Berry – An Antioxidant Superstar
The superfood status Aronia melanocarpa has earned is largely attributable to its very strong antioxidant properties. In fact, aronia berries have the highest antioxidant capacity among berries and other fruits evaluated to date (as of 2012). These antioxidants properties, in turn, can be attributed to the phenolic compounds present in aronia berries, although the high levels of vitamin C found in these super-berries may also play a role.
A Polish chokeberry study published in the journal European Food Research and Technology in 2005 found that polymeric proanthocyanins and anthocyanins are the dominating phenolic compound groups in aronia berries and aronia juice. Polymeric proanthocyanins are also found in tea and red wine, while blueberries are famous for their high concentration of anthocyanins.
Antioxidants are believed to protect against many degenerative diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, and to slow down aging in general. They are also a crucial component of anti-wrinkle diets as they can help protect your skin from the harmful effects of environmental pollutants, tobacco smoke, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and other factors that cause your body to produce free radicals.
How to Reap the Benefits: According to a study published in the European Food Research and Technology in 2005, whole aronia berries have higher antioxidant activity than aronia berry juice. So, in theory, choosing fresh or dried aronia berries over aronia juice would bring you the maximum antioxidant benefits. That said, all pure aronia berry products are extremely high in antioxidants, and if you decide to go for the juice, you will by no means be short of antioxidants. In fact, research shows that extremely high doses of antioxidants may even do more harm than good! That is also why you’ll want to follow the dose recommendations printed on the package (in case of dried aronia berries, the recommended dose is typically 1 tablespoon of berries per day).
A Gut Health Promoting Superfood Full of Fiber
Dried aronia berries are packed with fiber, with a 100-gram serving (3.5 ounces) providing 16.9 grams of this essential macro-nutrient. Unlike the other macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your digestive tract, which is why it is associated with a number of unique health benefits. Some of these benefits include healthy bowel movements and overall improved bowel health, lower cholesterol levels, weight loss (when combined with exercise and an overall healthy weight loss diet), and reduced risk of problems related to blood sugar levels.
How to Reap the Benefits: To benefit from the fiber in aronia berries, buy dried aronia berries rather than juice, as juice contains very little fiber. On an ounce-per-ounce basis, dried berries are also a significantly better source of fiber than fresh berries.
Proven Anti-Cancer Properties
Eating more berries in general is one of the best tips for people who are looking to reduce their risk of developing cancer, but aronia berries might be the ultimate winner when it comes to cancer-fighting foods. A team of researchers from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Maryland analyzed anthocyanin-rich extracts made from grapes, bilberries (wild bluberries), and black chokeberries (aronia berries) for their chemopreventive activity against colon cancer. All three extracts inhibited the growth of cancer cells, but the chokeberry extract was the most potent inhibitor.
Cure for Colds?
Are you prone to catching colds and the flu? Amping up your cold and flu prevention diet with a spoonful of dried aronia berries or juice might be just what you need. Aronia berries have traditionally been used by Potawatomi indians to cure colds, and recent research confirms the anti-viral properties and high vitamin C content of this extraordinary superfood. A group of Bulgarian scientists found Aronia melanocarpa to have in-vitro anti-viral activity against type A influenza virus as well as bacteriostatic activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
How to Reap the Benefits: Opt for sugar-free aronia products, such as pure dried berries or pure juice, to reap the maximum immune-boosting benefits. You can also try making aronia berry tea by infusing crushed dried aronia berries in hot water.