Acerola Cherry: Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits

I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in the same neighborhood. This was a small neighborhood in the suburbs of the city with quiet streets and plenty of fruit trees. One particular shrub was very common as a hedge there. It produced red little berries in summer and spring, and I used to eat these tart berries straight from the branch. 

I haven’t come across this fruit since I was a little child, but recently, I’ve noticed it making headlines as a newly discovered superfood. This little berry is called acerola, and in this article, we will be discussing its nutritional profile and health benefits.

What is acerola?

Acerola cherry - fruit bowl

Acerola, also known as Barbados cherries or West Indies cherries, is a shrub native to several regions of the Americas and the Caribbean. 

The fruits are small, have no pit (just like berries), and are red. Fresh acerola cherries are hard to come by, as this fruit perishes within five days (and in my experience, even less in hotter climates). The best way to enjoy it raw is to grow the shrub itself. If you’re not that lucky, the most common way to consume acerola and enjoy its nutritional benefits is in the form of powder added to smoothie bowls, shakes, and juices.

Health benefits and traditional use

Acerola cherry - cherry assortment

A 2018 review study referred to the fruit as “an untapped functional superfruit,“ explaining that, thanks to its “reservoir of phytonutrients, the fruit exhibits high antioxidant capacity and several interesting biofunctional properties like skin whitening, anti-aging, and multi-drug resistant reversal activity.” 

Traditional and folk medicine uses of acerola include treatment for liver ailments, dysentery, diarrhea, coughs, colds, and the common flu.



Nutritional profile

Acerola cherry - on the branch

Acerola has one of the highest vitamin C contents among all fruits, second only to rosehip. It contains 50-100 times more vitamin C than oranges and lemons. This makes it an excellent choice for strengthening the immune system, as well as building strong, healthy collagen reservoirs in the body. Healthy amounts of collagen mean strong and healthy skin, hair, nails, ligaments, and joints.

Acerola is an excellent potent antioxidant that protects the body from inflammation and oxidative stress. It contains anthocyanins, a family of pigments that have been shown to improve the function of brain receptors and help protect against memory loss and other cognitive disorders. 

Apart from that, the cherries contain beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), lutein (good for eye health), and several members of the B-vitamin family: thiamine-B1, riboflavin-B2, niacin-B3, pyridoxine-B6, folic acid-B9, and pantothenic acid-B5. B vitamins are crucial for proper nerve function, digestion, energy and mood, red blood cells, and brain function.

In terms of minerals, they contain iron, phosphorus, and calcium, all take part in building tissues and preserving healthy DNA. 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4
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