How many of you have ever heard of Acerola Cherries? And for those of you who don't, it's no surprise, because these delicate fruits are native to the West Indies. Acerola is a small berry-like fruit, primarily grown in Puerto Rico and a few other Caribbean Islands. However, you may be lucky enough, to find a few orchards in the warmer states of the US such as Florida, as well as places like Hawaii. Some people even grow Acerola Cherries in their backyards. See other fruits around the world.
You'd have a hard time finding Acerola Cherries at your local supermarket or grocery store. But if you do find some near you, grab as many as you can because these cherries have the richest source of vitamin C in the world. They also have extremely high concentrations of phenolic antioxidants and phytochemical compounds that protect the body from infections and inflammation.
While specialty markets in Puerto Rico carry jams, juices and jellies which contain less vitamin C than the fresh variety, they are still a good source. These processed products are known to contain between 60 and 80 percent of their original vitamin C content. You may even find dried and crushed Acerola berries, which can be made into a cup of refreshing tea. The only downside of dried or crushed berries as a hot tea, is that you'd be reducing the amount of vitamin C by as much as half. The solution to a cup of Acerola tea, would simply be to add a few extra berries.
This fruit not only has the healing power to help strengthen the immune system, prevent heart disease and protect you against cancer, but it can also benefit your body in so many other ways such as the prevention of age-related conditions and wound healing. Studies also suggest that the chlorogenic acid in these cherries may have the ability to help lower blood sugar levels, thus controlling blood glucose levels in Diabetes Mellitus Type II.
The B-complex group of vitamins in these berries contains small amounts of vitamin B3 Niacin, Folates and Pantothenic Acid. And they also contain a fair amount of vitamin B-6, Folic Acid and Riboflavin. The best part is that all these vitamins help the body metabolise carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The berries also contain sufficient amounts of minerals as well as electrolytes such as copper, iron, zinc, potassium and manganese. All good properties for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
One variety of Acerola is quite sweet and can be eaten like any other cherry directly from the tree itself, straight out of your hand, or as part of a fresh fruit salad. Another variety, often made into jams, jellies and juices are lip-smackingly tart, but higher in vitamin C. Just like any other cherry, treat them gently and choose bright red and ripe ones that are firm and uniform in size. Avoid any that are discoloured bruised or damaged. Even though the tart variety of Acerola contains more vitamin C than the sweeter ones, you won't be missing out on the health benefits.
We all know that as winter approaches and cold symptoms make their appearance, we step up our consumption of citrus fruits such as oranges or grapefruit to combat any signs of the sniffles. The fact that vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, can you just imagine what the enormous benefits of Acerola Cherries would do for your system.
So if you can get hold of a few fresh Acerola Cherries, you'll have a stronger form of vitamin C to ward off cold-related illness. A single Acerola berry will provide you with 80 milligrams of vitamin C. That is around 133 per cent of the daily value. And to put that in perspective, one orange will give you only half of that. Even guava, considered to be one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, cannot compete with that. Just one Acerola berry contains up to ten times more vitamin C than a similar amount of guava.
And the health benefits of vitamin C go way beyond relieving the common cold. Vitamin C also helps the body make collagen, a tough fibrous protein that helps build connective tissue, skin, bones, teeth, which all plays a vital role in the healing of wounds. Vitamin C is also vital in protecting the body from free radicals as well as cell-damaging oxygen molecules, thought to contribute to the development of cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening conditions. The combination of vitamin C and phytochemical compounds
If you're lucky enough to live on one of the Caribbean Islands or you know of someone growing Acerola in their backyard, here are a few preparation and storage tips you can apply to your daily bottom line.
You can store the fresh cherries in an airtight plastic container or zip-lock plastic pouch and place them in the refrigerator. As with any perishable, you should consume the cherries within a few days. Just make sure you wash the berries with cold water without disturbing the stems.
1) Fresh sweet Acerola Cherries can be sliced and added to fruit salads.
2) You can use them in the preparation of juices, jellies, jams and sauces.
3) You can add a small amount to a fruit pie or fruit butters.
4) They can be made as a preserve and will keep for a couple of months when stored in a tightly covered glass jar or an airtight container.
5) If you happen to buy the tart variety, you might want to add a little sweetener such as honey to keep your lips and mouth from puckering. I don't like to recommend sugar as a sweetener as sugar itself, is by no means healthy for you. But then you knew that.
6) If you can only find dried Acerola berries, you can crush them with a rolling pin and then use them to make tea. However, placing the berries in hot water will reduce the amount of vitamin C by about half that amount.
Please take note that the information on this site is designed for educational purposes and is intended solely for general readership. The contents herein are not intended to offer any personal medical advice or to diagnose any health issues you may have. This information is also by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider. For that, you'd need to consult your medical doctor or a health care practitioner for any advice should you require prescription medication.