Every so often, a new “super food” hits the market, and people flock to it with the hopes of finding the secret to perfect health. A long list of foods have been touted as having “superpowers,” including Acai berries, Goji berries, pomegranate juice, coconut oil, coconut water, kale and chia seeds, just to name a few.
The latest super food getting lots of attention is the Aronia berry. According to research published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, this small purple berry has one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded when compared to any other fruit. In fact, the level of antioxidants in this berry is so high that it is too astringent to be eaten raw. Aronia berries are also high in dietary fiber, iron and vitamin C. These berries boast higher levels of quinic acid than cranberries which make them more effective in treating urinary tract infections.
Also known as the chokeberry, this fruit is indigenous to North America and has been cultivated in Russia and Eastern Europe since the last century. Farmers in the United States and Canada are now joining the race. Various companies across the country are jumping on the bandwagon to cultivate and profit from the sales of the fruit and its products such as juices, wines and baked goods. The Midwest Aronia Association’s website also offers a recipe page: http://midwestaronia.org/recipes/
So should we all start eating Aronia berries? Soon we will get questions about serving sizes and the amount of berries we need to eat daily. There is no doubt that foods have healing powers. Some foods are called “super foods” because they indeed have extra nutrients that help prevent and treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’. Adding the right foods to your diet, especially super foods that are rich in antioxidants, can increase your immunity, and help your body fight against disease.
However, the answer is not found in any one magical food. Also, a large dose of one food is not going to give you an extra advantage. More is not always better. There are a number of vital nutrients present in all natural foods. Each food group contains many important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. If you want to get the maximum benefit from your diet, focus on variety. Eat all the different foods from each food group, especially colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. Expand your palate. Make sure you “eat a rainbow,” and sure, throw in a few Aronia berries in there!
Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian with WakeMed. With questions for the dietitians, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For individual nutrition counseling, call WakeMed Cary Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Services at 919-350-2358.