- Food and Cooking
What is a Superfruit?
The term superfruit was first coined in 2005 by the beverage industry and is used liberally to refer to fruits that have high anti-oxidant capacity, high nutritional value and high consumer appeal. Some are ordinary fruits such as strawberries, others like the acai berry are more exotic. There are no actual scientific guidelines as to what makes a fruit a superfruit and so the term has been used increasingly in new food and beverage products and in some cases it has been used simply for rare fruits, some having sparse scientific evidence for being "super." Sometimes novelty and appeal to consumers is all it takes to market something as a superfruit.
What are some of the most popular and well known superfruits out there these days? Take a look below and decide for yorurself if they are really super or not!
The Acai Berry
Superfruit or overhyped average berry? You decide
The acai berry grows from a palm native to Central and South America and has been used as a traditional food source for hundreds of years in many native cultures.
The berry is small, round, black-purple in color and about 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter. It is similar in appearance and size to a grape but with less pulp, and grows in branched bundles of 500 to 900 fruit.
The acai berry has traditionally been eaten raw or used in drinks such as a flavoring for tequila and as an ice cream flavor. Recently the acai berry has been marketed as a dietary supplement and sold in the form of tablets, juice, drink powders and whole fruit.
Claims have been made that the acai berry can boost energy levels, aid in digestion, improve skin appearance, improve heart health, detoxify and most commonly aid in weight loss. These claims have not been verified and there have been no scientifically controlled studies backing any of these claims up.
Looking at what's in the acai berry we find a middle of the road level of antioxidants. When compared to red wine, pomegranate juice, blueberry juice and concord grape juice, the average antioxidant capacity was ranked lower. The antioxidant level was about the same as that found in black cherry and cranberry juice and higher than that found in orange juice, apple juice and tea.
Acai contains anthocyanins and flavonoids which are both types of antioxidants. Anthocyanins are responsible for its rich color. Anthocyanins and flavonoids both help protect the body from free radicals which are harmful byproducts produced by the body. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may therefore aid in the prevention of such diseases as heart disease and cancer by neutralizing free radicals.
Other research has shown that the acai berry, when ground into a powder, has some mild inhibitory effects on certain enzymes and can reduce the proliferation of experimental leukemia cells
Although acai berries have been touted as a product helpful in weight loss, no studies have currently been done showing that they actually work in such a manner. Certainly a diet rich in antioxidants and healthful fruits along with exercise has been shown effective in weight management.
photo source: http://acaiberrysite.com/what-is-acai/acai-berries-pictures/
The KING of 'superfruits'
The blueberry gets the honor of being the very first 'superfruit', it is also the least exotic as it does not grow in some far off remote tropical paradise, but is native to North America.
There are around 17 different species of blueberries known, but commercially offered blueberrie are usually from species that naturally occur only in eastern and north-central North America, the most common of which is V. corymbosum, the Northern highbush blueberry. When you hear the term 'wild' associated with blueberries, this usually refers to harvests of managed native stands of low-bush blueberries. The bushes are not planted or genetically manipulated, but they are pruned or burned over every two years, and pests are managed. Maine is the largest producer of low-brush blueberries in the world and Michigan is the world leader in highbrush blueberries. Blueberries are also grown in Canada and in parts of Europe, South America, even Australia and New Zealand.
Blueberries have high levels of the essential minerals manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They also have a diverse range of micronutrients, and dietary fiber. In addition, they have a low glycemic index which makes them an excellent food for individuals watching their blood sugar levels.
Unlike many of the other 'superfruits', many scientific studies have been done on the blueberry. Especially in wild species, blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. They contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments and various phytochemicals possibly having a role in reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and certain cancers. There are studies that show that blueberry consumption may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer's disease and other conditions of aging. Feeding blueberries to animals lowers brain damage in experimental stroke. Research at Rutgers has also shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections and other animal studies have found that total blood lipid levels (cholesterol) is lowered with blueberry consumption, possibly helping those with heart disease. Finally, research has also shown that blueberry consumption in rats altered glycosaminoglycans which are vascular cell components affecting control of blood pressure. Last but not least, a chemical isolated from blueberry leaves can block replication of the hepatitis C virus and might help to delay disease spread in infected individuals.
Clearly the blueberry wins the 'superfruit' award for the most health benefits backed by scientific studies.
Interested in picking your own blueberries or discovering hundreds of awesome blueberry recipies? Visit http://www.theblueberryfarm.com
photo source: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/319/1blueberry.html
The Goji Berry
Goji berries (also known as wlolfberries) are usually eaten dried and have a tangy, slightly sweet and sour taste. They have a similar shape and chewy texture as raisins.
Goji berries grow on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and in the Himalayas in Tibet. They are in the nightshade (Solonaceae) family.
Goji berries are rich in antiooxidants, particularly beta carotene and zeazanthin which work to protect the eyes. For over 6,000 years, herbalists in China, Tibet and India have used goji berries to help protect the liver, help eyesight, improve sexual function and fertility, strengthen the legs, boost immune function, improve circulation and promote longevity.
There are many claims as to the wonders of goji berries - such as that of a man named Li Qing Yuen who consumed goji berries daily and lived to be 252 years old!
A Chinese study published in the Chinese Journal of Oncology in 1994 found that 79 people with cancer responded better to treatment when goji was added to their regimen. There have been several test tube studies that show that goji berry contains antioxidants and that goji extracts may prevent the growth of cancer cells, reduce blood glucose, and lower cholesterol levels.
photo source: http://rdksf3.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/goji_berries.jpg
Try These Superfruits
Fresh fruit is the best but it isn't always possible to get many of these superfruits fresh. Give them a try as suppliments, dried fruit or juice instead. They also come in delicious teas.
In my opinion, the weakling of the superfruit group.
The mangosteen fruit is smooth, round, dark-purple to red-purple on the outside and purplish-white on the inside. The inside is broken up among 4 to 8 triangular segments of snow-white, juicy, soft flesh. The fruit may be seedless or have 1 to 5 fully developed seeds. Instead of peeling it like an orange, a mangosteen is typically opened by pressing firmly or twisting the outside until it breaks apart. The hard rind can be nearly one inch thick.
The fruit was probably first domesticated in Thailand or Burma. Currently it is heavily cultivated in Thailand, Southern Vietnam and Burma, throughout Malaya and Singapore. The tree has been unable to grow successfully in Hawaii, California and Florida due to unfavorable soils and temperatures and its need for large quantities of rainfall.
Mangosteens are usually eaten fresh as dessert though the fleshy segments are sometimes canned. Apparently they lose their delicate flavor in canning, especially if pasteurized. Sometimes jams are made and the seeds can be eaten as well. The rind is rich in pectin and can also be made into a jelly. In the United States (except for Hawaii) they have been difficult to find fresh due to import concerns and so are mostly consumed as part of a variety of different beverages.
In Asia, medicinal uses of the mangosteen abound. The sliced and dried rind is powdered and administered to overcome dysentery, diarrhea, cystitis, gonorrhea and gleet. . Made into an ointment, it is applied on eczema and other skin disorders. Filipinos employ a decoction of the leaves and bark as a febrifuge and to treat thrush, diarrhea, dysentery and urinary disorders. In Malaya, an infusion of the leaves, combined with unripe banana and a little benzoin is applied to the wound of circumcision. A root decoction is taken to regulate menstruation. A bark extract called "amibiasine", has been marketed for the treatment of amoebic dysentery.
What makes mangosteen a 'superfruit'? The rind has been found to contain the compounds alpha-mangostin, beta-mangostin, garcinone B, and garcinone E, which are collectively called xanthones. Laboratoy studies suggest xanthones have anti-cancer effects when they are studied in test tubes. Mangosteen has also been found to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties in test tube studies. What happens in test tube studies may not necessarily happen when the fruit is ingested orally. In addition, some of the properties attributed to the xanthone content may actually be obtained from compounds called tannins in the rind. All plants contain tannins. Studies of xanthones are in the very early stages and no real conclusions regarding health benefits have been established.
The fruit of the mangosteen is the most flavorful part however, it is the rind that contains the xanthones and other valuable phytochemicals. Therefore, to gain full value from this fruit, you need to be drinking juice products that contiain a whole food puree. In this case the color will be purple.
An interesting side note about the mangosteen is that it is commonly known as "The Queen of fruits" in parts of southeast Asia, notably Singapore and Malaysia. It is believed to have "cooling" properties that counteract the "heatiness" of durians, the so-called "King of fruits". The fruiting season of these two fruits coincides.
photo source: http://ww2.mymandura.com/images/mangosteen-large2.png
Check Out This Video of Really Bizarre and Exotic Fruits - including the mangosteen
The Sea Buckthorn
A champion 'superfruit'
There are 6 species and 12 subspecies of the sea buckthorn plant which grows over a huge range from Europe through Asia. It grows in dry sandy areas and does not tolerate shade. The plant has distinct pale green silvery colored leaves and brownish flowers. The berries are orange, soft, juicy and rich in oils.
Though very unpleasant and bitter to eat raw, the berries are very nutritious and the juice can be mixed with apple or grape juice. The fats in the sea-buckthorn, saturated and polyunsaturated, can be extracted from pressing the berry and used for cosmetic purposes such as anti-aging skin crÃ¨mes and moisturizers. The berries can be used to make jam, pies and liquors
The nutrient and phytochemical properties of sea-buckthorn berries have a potential value as antioxidants that may help inflammatory disorders such as cancer and heart disease, but no specific health benefits have yet been proved by clinical research in humans.
Sea-Buckthorn berries also have a unique combination of vitamins and minerals usually only found separately. The vitamin C content is among the highest for any plant (4th after rose-hips, hot chili pepper and sweet red pepper, 12 times greater than that found in oranges). Sea-Buckthorn berries also have a high content of vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, K and Pand beta-carotene. The beta-carotene content is what gives the berries their color.
SeaBuckthorn Berry Oil 1.76 oz.
In China, sea-buckthorn has been used traditionally for thousands of years as an herbal medicine to relieve cough, aid digestion, invigorate blood circulation and alleviate pain. In addition the oils have been used to relieve skin irritations and wounds. Bark and leaves have been used to treat diarrhea. Since the sea-buckthorn berry components have potential anti-carcinogenic activity and anti-inflammatory effects, it has been added to medications for pulmonary, gastrointestinal, cardiac, blood and metabolic disorders in Indian, Chinese and Tibetan medicines.
photo source: http://rxwildlife.org.uk/images/seabuckthorn.jpg
Cranberries grow on low, creeping shrubs or vines which have small evergreen leaves and dark pink flowers. The fruit is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It has an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.
Cranberries are a major commercial crop in America and Canada. They are eaten fresh, dried, as juice and for sauces. Of course no Thanksgiving traditional dinner would be complete without the indispensable cranberry.
Cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese, as well as a balanced profile of other essential micronutrients. Cranberries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants, and phytochemicals which as discussed elsewhere on this page are currently under active research for possible benefits to the cardiovascular system, immune system and as anti-cancer agents. Raw cranberries and cranberry juice has high levels of the anthocyanidin flavonoids, cyanidin, peonidin and quercetin. These compounds have an unknown effect on human health, but have been shown to haven an effect on human cancer cells in vitro.
There is potential benefit of cranberry juice consumption against bacterial infections in the urinary system as cranberry tannins have anti-clotting properties. Research shows that an effect occurs from a component of the juice inhibiting bacterial attachment to the bladder and urethra anotherwords, the tannin, (also found in blueberries) interferes with projections on the bacterium, preventing it from sticking to the walls of the bladder and causing infection. However, once the bacteria have established a hold, it's best to seek medical advice. No evidence shows cranberry juice is able to cure an established bladder infection, which can lead to a more serious kidney infection.
Cranberry juice shows promise as an alternative to antibiotics as compounds in cranberry juice have the capacity to actually change E. coli bacteria-even strains that have become resistant to conventional treatment-in ways that render them unable to initiate an infection. Other potential benefits of cranberry juice include prevention of kidney stones, protection against LDL's (bad cholesterol), improved blood vessel function and cancer prevention.
For some excellent cranberry recipes got to http://www.cranberryrecipes.us
photo source: http://vegpod.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/cranberry_small.jpg
The pomegranate is native to South West Asia and has been cultivated since ancient times. The fruit is about the size of a large orange and has a rounded hexagonal shape with thick reddish skin and around 600 seeds inside. The seeds are surrounded by a deep red pulp (but color can range from white to light red).
After cutting the pomegranate open, the seeds are separated from the white pulp membranes and the entire seed is then eaten raw. The taste can be sweet or sour depending on the fruit. Pomegranate juice has been used in many different traditional middle eastern dishes and drinks and wild pomegranate seeds are sometimes used as a spice known as anardana.
Pomegranate juice is a good source of vitamin B5, potassium and antioxidant polyphenols it also provides about 16% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement per 100 ml serving.
The most abundant polyphenols in pomegranate juice are the hydrolyzable tannins called punicalagins which have free-radical scavenging properties in laboratory experiments. The punicalagins are absorbed into the human body but conclusive proof their dietary value as antioxidants in humans has not yet been shown.
Other phytochemicals found in the pomegranate include beta-carotene, and polyphenols catechins, gallocatechins, and anthocyanins such as prodelphinidins, delphinidin, cyanidin, and pelargonidin. Even though this seems like a lot, the antioxidant capacity of pomegranate juice is ranked as only moderate when compared to other herbs and spices.
In preliminary laboratory research and human pilot studies, pomegranate was shown to reduce heart disease risk factors. It has also been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure and it may inhibit viral infections, and have antibacterial effects against dental plaque. In addition, pomegranate seed oil was effective against proliferation of breast cancer cells in vitro.
Currently there are many clinical trials in progress to examine the total effects of pomegranate juice consumption on various diseases including diabetes, lymphoma, prostate cancer and even the common cold.
photo source: http://www.oakcreekorchard.com/id79.html
The Jujube Fruit
The 'superfruit' you probably have never heard of before
The jujube is extensively cultivated and was first domesticated in India around 9000 BCE. Due to its extensive cultivation, there are varieties of the plant that can withstand very cold temperatures (-15 F) as well as very hot dry conditions. It has shiny green leaves, small flowers and the fruit itself is quite small. When immature it is smooth-green, with the consistency and taste of an apple, as it matures it turns dark red to purplish-black and eventually becomes wrinkled, looking like a small date. There is a single pit inside similar to an olive.
Tests in Russia indicate a very high vitamin C content, but just how high I could not find out. I found no other information on vitamin, nutrient or antioxidant properties of the jujube. However, there have been some scientific studies done on the fruit. In modern Chinese medicine, the jujube is used to tone the spleen and stomach, to treat shortness of breath and severe emotional upset. Scientists have found that mice fed jujube gained more weight and did better in endurance tests and when rabbits that were exposed to carbon tetrachloride consumed jujube teas daily for a week, they recovered faster than a control group. Also Rabbits fed a toxic chemical recovered faster after consuming jujube than those that did not eat the fruit, perhaps showing the jujubes positive effects on the liver. The jujube fruit has also been shown to improve the liver function of patients suffering from hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Like many of the other 'superfruits', the jujube fruit has been used traditionally in many Asian cultures. In China and Korea, the fruit has been used to alleviate stress and to sooth a sore throat. It is also believed that the fruit attracts the opposite sex and aids in fertility. The Chinese also believe that the wild jujube fruit improves the health of the body. In fact, the common belief is that if the fruit is taken on a daily basis, it will improve skin color and tone, both signs of physical well being.
photo source: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/jujube_pictures.htm
Try These Superfruits
Not only does this cream contain the essential oils form the Sea-buckthorn berry, it also has ester C which has been shown inc linical trials to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Cucumber extract works to soothe the skin.
This product is excellent. It provides a complete whole food Sea-buckthorn juice supplement with the full range of essential omega oils, antioxidants, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E as well as K and P and many trace minerals.
Unsweetened and concentrated is the way to go. Add your own sugars if you absolutly have to but try mixing it with other juices instead for the full health value.