The benefits and side effects of aronia (aronia melanocarpa)

aroniaImage source: exploringpermaculture.blogspot.com

Aronia or aronia melanocarpa is also known as ‘black chokeberry’ and is considered by many to be the healthiest fruit in the world, offering more health benefits than any other superfood. [1]

Aronia melanocarpa is one of the three species of berry-producing plants of the rosaceae family and is most commonly found in swamps and woodlands along the eastern seaboard of North America.

The shrubbery grows to 2 to 3 meters and bears white flowers which in time produce small berries of around 13 mm. While its use is limited due to its astringent and sour taste, it is usually mixed with other fruits when used in commercial products because of its high pectin content, which makes it a good preservative.

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The wild berry is also used in Germany, Russia and Europe in fruit juices, syrups, jellies, spreads and tea. Aronia is also used as a flavoring or colorant for beverages or yogurts.

Wine is made in Lithuania our of aronia, while in Poland, the berries are dried to make an herbal tea sometimes blended with other flavorful ingredients like blackcurrant.

But more importantly, aronia is also used for its many health benefits which is why it has been named a super fruit. The small dark purple fruit has made quite a name for itself in the health food world and has increased in popularity over the past decade.

For those who are wondering how aronia stacks up against other super fruits. As compared to blueberry, another more popular super fruit, which has an ORAC score of 6,520 [2], aronia has an incredible ORAC score of 15,820. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score is a method of measurement that is used for measuring the antioxidant capacity in various foods and supplements. Research has found that foods that have a higher ORAC score tend to have more health benefits than others.

Health benefits

Aronia has attracted much scientific interest in recent years due to its deep purple color and almost black pigmentation which arises from its dense contents of polyphenols and anthocyanins. According to studies, 1480 mg of anthocyanin content is found per 100 g, while polyphenol content has been measured at 1752 mg per 100 g in fresh aronia berries. [3]

Anti-carcinogenic properties: The main component that is credited with most of the health benefits in the fruit is due to group of chemicals that are called polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants, considered to protect the body from cellular damage caused by carcinogens found in Alcohol. [4]

Fights against heart disease: Its relatively high amount of phenolic constituents is also responsible for a wide range of health benefits. While research is being carried out, the results so far have been quite promising. Phenolics have also been found to be effective in limiting the atherosclerotic damage caused by heart disease.

Anti-inflammatory: Japanese researchers have also found that aronia can block the action of COX-2, which is an extremely potent pro-inflammatory agent. Apart from its COX-2 blocking capabilities, aronia has also shown to decrease gastric irritation caused by certain non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.

Antioxidant source: Research has also found that aronia is one of the richest sources of anthocyanins, with 100 gram of the fruit containing as much as ca. 500 mg of anthocyanins. After consumption, aronia helps increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood which protects the body against oxidative stress. Furthermore, aronia also combines the health benefits of green tea and red wine by containing both types of polyphenols, catechins and anthocyanins.

Urinary tract health: Another benefit of including the aronia berries in your diet is because it helps keep the urinary tract from UTIs (urinary tract infections). Millions of people from around the world suffer from various UTIs, with the main causal agent being escherichia coli. Some of its symptoms include frequent urination, accompanied by pain. New studies have revealed that along with cranberries, aronia berries are also effective in the fight against UTIs. In fact, aronia has been found to be five times more effective than cranberries because of its high levels of quinic acid, which has been proven to prevent urinary tract infections.

Weight control: Aronia berries have also proven to be helpful when it comes to regulating weight. It does this by preventing the body from storing fat around the abdomen. Another added benefit of using aronia is that it improves lipid and cholesterol levels in the body, consequently helping the body produce good cholesterol. [5]

Other benefits: Aronia can be very beneficial in cases of arthritis, hypertension, inflammation, cardiovascular conditions and other infections. The use of aronia has also been found to strengthen blood vessels, support natural immunity, lower blood pressure levels, and even delay the natural aging process.

Dosage

Because of the endless list of health problems that are caused by cellular oxidative processes, aronia is still undergoing extensive research for its use in health conditions such as diabetes and neurological disorders.

Aronia is normally available in juice, extract and powder form from most health food stores. While the freshly picked aronia berries have a sugar content of around 20%, the sweetness is offset by the high amount of tannins and other chemicals that are responsible for its sour and astringent taste. Whether aronia is taken as a powder filled capsule, or in liquid extract form, the recommended daily dosage is 150 to 400 mg, which is to be taken after meals. [6]

Side effects

While there have been no reports of side effects after ingestion, since it is a plant substance there could be certain allergic responses in some people. Those who are using aronia are advised to contact their physician if they suspect aronia to be the cause of any discomfort.

Summary: Aronia is a nutraceutical fruit crop that offers an extremely high amount of healthy elements in the form of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. While there is still much research to be carried out on the fruit and its benefits, it is currently ranked as one of the top eight in the super fruits category.

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