Although it is not a well-known fruit in the West, acerola is a plant native to central and southern America very similar to cherry.
It offers magnificent mixed flavor between sugar and acid, because it contains a large amount of ascorbic acid. That is why acerola has been gaining ground and has established itself as an interesting fruit to drink.
We will know its main characteristics, beneficial properties of its consumption and how we can eat it or find the natural extracts of this fruit in specialized stores.
Due to its properties, more and more capsules and extracts of acerola are offered for its vitamin C content, much higher than many other fruits.
What is acerola?
Acerola is the name of the fruit of the plant Malpighia emarginata, belonging to the family Malpighiaceae.
Its cultivation area is developed in the area of Central and South America, in tropical areas and with high relative humidity in the environment.
It is classified as a shrub, with a size in its adult stage between 2 and 3 meters in height. Light and fleshy green leaves, with central nerve, which protect the flowering turned into fruits later.
Currently, the two most producing countries in the world are Brazil and Puerto Rico, which sell fresh fruit directly or process it using fruit juices.
The fruit of the acerola has a characteristic red, with a size and shape very similar to that of the common cherry. As for its taste, it is slightly more acidic than cherry before its full state of ripeness.
This is due, as we will see below, to the large amounts of vitamins it contains, especially ascorbic acid. Hence it has a slightly astringent flavor.
As the fruit takes on redder tones, it loses some concentration of this vitamin, so for the manufacture of antioxidant supplements it is collected in a state prior to full ripening.
How to take
The most common is to consume acerola berries because they contain the maximum availability of vitamins (especially ascorbic acid).
Its flavor is a mixture between sweet, sour and astringent. It can be eaten perfectly raw or cooked to accompany in dishes, make jams, etc.
For other countries far from production, there are also alternatives in the form of supplements in capsules or powder. The fruit has a low transport capacity because it is a climacteric fruit and ripens very fast.
The powdered supplement is quite well known and used. It is made from dehydrated and ground acerola juice to form a powder homogeneous. It is soluble in water and can be used to mix in drinks, smoothies, jams, etc.
Acerola-based food supplements should be used in accordance with label requirements and recommended dosages.
Properties of acerola
In this case, the studied properties of acerola are attributed to its nutritional composition, more specifically to the concentration of some of its vitamins. You will be surprised, as an advance of information, the concentration of vitamin C, much higher than fruits such as strawberry or orange.
According to the American USDA, the nutritional composition of acerola is as follows for 100 grams of fresh consumption.
- Energy: 32 kcal
- Proteins: 0.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 7.69 g
- Fats: 0.3 g
- Dietary fiber: 1.1 g
|Composition||Quantity||% Recommended Daily|
|Vitamin A||38 μg||4% RDA|
|Vitamin B1||0.02 mg||2% RDA|
|Vitamin B2||0.06 mg||4% RDA|
|Vitamin B3||0.04 mg||0.25% CDR|
|Vitamin B5||0.309 mg||6%CDR|
|Vitamin B6||0.009 mg||1% RDA|
|Vitamin C||1677.6 mg||2796% CDR|
One of the most striking amounts of vitamin composition is that of vitamin C, the amount of which far exceeds the recommended daily dose. That is why acerola becomes one of the fruits with the most contribution of this vitamin, interesting for its antioxidant properties and benefits attributed to its consumption.
- Potassium: 146 mg (3% RDA)
- Phosphorus: 11 mg (2% RDA)
- Calcium: 12 mg (1% RDA)
- Magnesium: 18 mg (5% RDA)
- Iron: 0.2 mg (2% RDA)
- Manganese: 0.6 mg (30% RDA)
- Zinc: 0.1 mg (1% RDA)
The health benefits of acerola are mainly due to its high vitamin C content. This property is slowly lost as the fruit ripens.
In studies carried out with different fruits grown in the same area as acerola, no fruit exceeded in content in Vitamin C to this fruit.
Vitamin C is soluble in water that is not stored in the body, so we have to take daily the recommendations of the WHO or USDA.
Need for vitamin C
Vitamin C manufactures collagen, protects mucous membranes and prevents scurvy. It is important to maintain the proper functioning of the immune system and help the body fight infections, viruses and even cancer.
In turn, several clinical trials are being carried out to assess the importance of vitamin C in the prevention and reduction of different types of cancer, such as colon cancer.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.
Vitamin C stands out for being a powerful antioxidant that can strengthen the natural defenses of our body.
These antioxidants are substances that stimulate the immune system, protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by known free radicals.
If these free radicals accumulate, they can promote a situation known as oxidative stress, and is related to many chronic diseases. [See study]
Scientific studies show that increasing the daily intake of vitamin C to the standards recommended by Health Agencies can increase the levels of antioxidants in the body by up to 30%.
The high blood pressure it considerably increases the risk of suffering from some type of heart disease, being the leading cause of death worldwide.
Several scientific studies have shown that vitamin C, present in acerola, can help lower blood pressure with and without risk factor.
Such human analysis found that taking vitamin C in the recommended amounts reduced systolic blood pressure (the highest value) by 3.84 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (the lowest value) by 1.48 mm Hg in healthy adults.
In those patients who had been diagnosed high blood pressure, this vitamin C concentration reduced systolic blood pressure by 4.85 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.67 mmHg, on average.
Improves iron absorption
The problems of anemia are not always derived from a low intake of iron, but to a poor assimilation of the mineral. This is attributed, as also happens with calcium and magnesium, to the fact that it needs a “catalyst” to promote its activity and absorption by the body.
Acerola, due to its vitamin C content, can help improve the absorption of iron from the diet.
Vitamin C helps convert poorly absorbed iron, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to assimilate. [See study]
Simply by taking 100 mg of vitamin C we can improve iron assimilation by 67%. Therefore, this can favor the elimination of anemia more quickly or avoid having it, as long as we ensure a healthy diet where iron is always present.
Does it have side effects?
The main side effect that acerola can have is a high consumption and toxicity of vitamin C. This problem is experienced with an onset of digestive disorder (diarrhea, digestive cramps, etc.).
In the case of consuming acerola, it is not recommended to consume it daily in high quantities. For use as a food supplement, the dosage announced by the manufacturer must be respected.
High amounts of acerola fruit can lead to an increase in kidney stones.