Acerola cherries are the small fleshy fruits of the Malpighia glabra, a shrub native to Central and South America and the West Indies. The sweet, tart fruits have been an important food source for people living in these areas for hundreds of years.
One of the first uses of acerola in the U.S. was as a baby food additive. In the 1950s, manufacturers felt that orange juice would be too acidic for infants, so they substituted apple juice instead, which lacked the vitamin C of orange juice. They added alittle acerola extract, and voila! A mild juice with lots of C!
Today, acerola is quickly becoming an important health supplement because of its high levels of vitamin C and its unique combinations of antioxidants.
Acerola has one of the highest vitamin C contents on the planet. For comparison, 100 grams of oranges have about 50mg of vitamin C, while the same amount of acerola packs a whopping 17,000mg of this important nutrient! The acerola’s vitamin C is more readily absorbed and has more anti-oxidative power, too, because of its unique combination of niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, protein, iron, phosphorous, and calcium.
Acerola’s antioxidants were put to the test in a 2005 study of Brazilian diets. Flavonoids, a specific type of antioxidant, were compared in a variety of foods. The results? Of the many foods tested, the ones with the highest antioxidant activities proved to be red cabbage, mulberry, black bean, jambolao, acai, Gala apple peel, and ACEROLA!
A scientific study conducted in Tokyo tested acerola extract on mice with lung tumors. The findings strongly suggest that doses of acerola regulate abnormal cell growth. The researchers believe acerola’s anthocyanins are resposible for the suppression of the tumors.
Acerola’s benefits don’t stop there. After recent studies in cosmetology identified the important role that vitamin C plays in removing free radicals from skin cells, acerola extracts began being added to skin care products to slow cellular aging. Acerola contains other requirements for healthy skin, too, including vital mineral salts, mucilage, and proteins.
What does all this mean for consumers? The evidence coming in from studies around the globe about the link between antioxidants, like those found in acerola, and their disease-fighting capabilities are staggering. They might be key in preventing and managing such health problems as diabetes, cancers, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, bacterial infections, and inflammatory conditions. They even help slow the cellular damage associated with aging.
And then, of course, is acerola’s amazing concentration of vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin leaves the body quickly and must be consumed on a regular basis for optimum health. It’s responsible for healthy gums, teeth, skin, and bones. Every gland and organ in the human body needs vitamin C in order to function properly, and the vitamin plays an important role in healing and fighting infection.
Acerola cherries are produced in many areas now. In addition to their traditional homes, the shrubs are being grown commercially in Texas and Florida and as ornamentals in the southern U.S. Growers in Puerto Rico jealously guard their plants, and custom officials remain on guard to ensure that no acerola cuttings leave the island.
Look for fresh acerola cherries in specialty grocery stores or in Latin markets. If you can’t find any, not to worry! You can get a healthy dose of their vitamin C and antioxidants in capsule form, found online or at many health food stores and drug stores.