What are Acerola berries?
The acerola is a tree that grows in the tropical forests of South America (Brazil and the Caribbean) and can reach up to 5 meters in height. It produces bright red fruits that are similar to European cherry. Its berries are also called Barbados cherries or West Indian cherries The diameter and weight of the fruit vary between 1 and 4 cm and between 2 and 15 g respectively.
Nutritional values of acerola berries
|Per 100g of acerola berries|
|Vitamin C||1677 mg|
|Vitamin A||767 IU|
Source: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 slightly revised May, 2016
Health effects of acerola berries
Vitamin C in acerola
Acerola berries contain an impressive amount of vitamin C. Indeed, knowing that the daily need is between 75 and 90 mg per day for an adult, the berries provide more than 1600 mg per serving. In addition to its antioxidant role, vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of skin integrity, helps wound healing, protects cells from premature aging caused by free radicals and facilitates immune functions. In addition, it facilitates the absorption of non-heme iron of plant origin.
Can we consume too much vitamin C?
The maximum tolerable intake for vitamin C is set at 2000 mg per day. Beyond this amount, mega-doses can cause loose stools, diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset. For a healthy person, excess vitamin C will be eliminated by the urine via the kidneys. However, in people predisposed to the formation of oxalic kidney stones, it would seem prudent to avoid high-dose vitamin C supplementation.
Acerola berries, rich in antioxidants
Acerola is also rich in carotenoids and flavonoids (cyanidine and quercetin), compounds with antioxidant effects.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene
The berries also contain vitamin A. Retinol is one of the active forms of vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is one of the most versatile vitamins, working together for several body functions. Among other things, it contributes to the growth of bones and teeth, keeps the skin healthy and protects against infections. In addition, it plays an antioxidant role and promotes good vision, especially in the dark. The berries also contain beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A with antioxidant power which limits oxidative stress and free radicals, molecules responsible for the aging of our cells. Beta carotene may also improve certain functions of the immune system (2-3). Moreover, these carotenoids are also studied in the fields of macular degeneration, cataracts, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer such as lung, oral cavity, pharynx and cervix. However, the data is not yet convincing.
Acerola in the kitchen
Acerola berries were mainly used to prevent the appearance of scurvy, an ancient disease during long sea crossings. Today, the risk of scurvy is very low. Acerola is also used for the prevention of heart disease, the treatment of colds, the prevention of cancer and depression. However, scientific evidence on humans is insufficient to recommend acerola for the treatment of these various disorders. Other studies remain to come.
The berries with a tangy taste are sold mainly in the form of juice or powder. Otherwise, they are incorporated into jams, candies or liqueurs.
A word from the nutritionist
Acerola berries are a discovery for me regarding their vitamin C content. However, since it is mainly marketed in the form of juice, this makes it a less attractive product. In the absence of scientific evidence, I would not recommend an acerola supplement.