The acerola is the fruit of a small shrub of the same name with many benefits, which proliferates in the tropical regions of South America, particularly in Peru, in the Caribbean, and in the heart of the Amazonian forests of Venezuela and Brazil. This exotic shrub produces red berries with a tangy, cherry-like taste: acerola berries. Focus on these super fruits with their many health benefits …
If these small berries have always been consumed by the Amazonian Indians to relieve dysentery, liver disorders and some diarrhoea, their scientific name was only attributed to them in the 17th century by the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné. Etymologically, acerola is a Spanish word meaning “maple cherry”, and the shrub that bears it is nicknamed “the tree of health”. It was not until 1950 that they were the subject of several scientific studies highlighting their many nutritional qualities. The results of these studies made acerola one of the first super-fruits on the web!
These red berries, which are also Barbados cherries, are as much a dream come true because of their exotic origins as they are because of their health benefits. They are notably very good sources of the vitamins and minerals detailed below, which are at the origin of their numerous virtues…
Acerola and vitamin C
It is particularly its exceptional vitamin C content that has made them famous, since they contain 30 to 40 times more vitamin C than our local orange and 10 to 20 times more than the kiwi! Their vitamin C content depends on their maturity, climate and harvesting season. In the 16th century, the great navigators were already in the habit of consuming acerola juice to prevent scurvy, a severe vitamin C deficiency that leads to death.
This water-soluble vitamin is not synthesized by the human body, which needs it daily to participate in hundreds of processes in the body. Contained mainly in fresh fruit and vegetables, it is also the most fragile of all vitamins! It is sensitive to heat, light and oxidation. A vegetable will lose half of its vitamin C content when cooked and a glass of squeezed orange juice, left for half an hour in the open air, will be almost devoid of it.
It is therefore not so easy to meet our daily needs in ascorbic acid.
Acerola is also a very good source of minerals, especially magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron, which help improve intellectual performance and fight fatigue. This abundance of minerals helps make acerola a super-fruit with exceptional nutritional density.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene (flavonoids)
Vitamin A and beta-carotene are flavonoid pigments that give acerola its attractive red colour and give it extra antioxidant activity. They act in synergy with vitamin C for a tenfold action on free radicals. Beta-carotene and vitamin A are also known for their role on visual acuity and healing.
Benefits and virtues
Anti-fatigue vitamin par excellence, the vitamin C contained in acerola is known to help strengthen the immune system at half mast, boost natural defenses and tone up in case of stress or overwork.
The main symptoms of vitamin C deficiency are fatigue and loss of energy, which often occur at the onset of winter, when our appetites push us towards rich and comforting dishes and away from raw vegetables, fresh fruit and salads. Vitamin C supplementation is then very effective in improving these symptoms.
Vitamin C has the ability to facilitate the absorption of iron into the body, mainly non-heme iron of plant origin. Iron anaemia is a common deficiency in industrialized countries, and is most common among women of childbearing age, who lose a lot of iron with each menstrual period.
To benefit from this anti-anemic action, the vitamin must be taken at mealtimes.
The vitamin C contained in acerola is one of the main antioxidant vitamins. It protects cells from the effect of free radicals, which are harmful to the body due to their strong oxidizing power.
Vitamin C thus preserves cells from premature ageing. You can easily experience this by sprinkling lemon juice (rich in vitamin C) on a peeled apple quarter: it will not be blackened and damaged by oxidation. This is what happens on a smaller scale on the cells of our body.
Strengthens teeth and bones and facilitates healing
By participating in the manufacture of collagen – a protein essential to the formation of connective tissue, which is also the most abundant in our body – vitamin C stimulates the strengthening of teeth and bones and helps in the healing of the skin. The production of collagen decreases with age, which explains the formation of wrinkles, sagging skin and the weakening of cartilage and joints.
Commonly consumed in the form of dietary supplements, juices, tablets or capsules. The maximum recommended dose is then 1g of fruit pulp per day. However, a study dating from 2011 showed that a daily consumption of 100 ml of acerola juice had no side effects. Excess vitamin C is filtered out by the kidneys and eliminated in the urine.
Side effects and contraindications
There are no side effects from reasonable consumption of acerola, but there may be side effects from overconsumption. Transient diarrhea may occur and it is advisable to reduce the dose of acerola consumed.
Pimples may also occur on the body due to the detoxifying properties of acerola on the kidneys and skin. Regular and heavy consumption of acerola is contraindicated for people suffering from gout or kidney stones, as it can increase the formation of uric acid and stones.
Let’s go further … new scientific discoveries
Recent studies on acerola have highlighted its effect on combating obesity and related cardiovascular disease. How?
On the overweight side
Vitamin C deficiency may be responsible for untimely cravings, which in turn can lead to weight gain. These cravings would be regulated as soon as the vitamin intake is corrected.
In addition, the vitamin C contained in acerola would stimulate the production of noradrenaline, this precious hormone that promotes lipolysis (destruction of adipose tissue).
Vitamin C would strengthen the walls of the blood vessels and would decrease LDL cholesterol, considered as the bad cholesterol. In the same way, its action would protect the blood cells of the kidneys and liver from a too rich and unbalanced diet.