Smoothie bowls, chocolate covered acai berries, and goji berry bars are all the rage in the health-food world within recent years. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out if these “superfruits” are more than just tasty (and beautiful to photograph!)…
The term “superfruit” refers to a category of natural plants that are believed to provide great health benefits because of their exceptional nutrient and antioxidant levels. Six tropical or exotic superfruits include açaí, goji, mangosteen, noni, pomegranate, and seaberry. Blueberries, cranberries, and red grapes are considered more common superfruits.
Many of the more exotic superfruits are available in juice, dried berry, or supplement form at a local grocery store, health food store, or via various websites.
It is important to keep in mind is that these fruits do not have scientific validation, sufficient clinical trial evidence, or regulatory approval for any health claim statements. However, they are recognized as exceptional antioxidant sources, and current research is looking at possible anti-disease properties. The following includes information specific to each of these fruits:
This small, black-purple fruit is a source of polyunsaturated fats and dietary fiber. Açaí also contains high levels of vitamin E, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and niacin in comparison to other plant foods. The berry is considered a good source of antioxidants, especially anthocyanins; however, most studies that examine the antioxidant potential are in animals. One small study on overweight individuals found that drinking an acai smoothie mixture twice a day for 30 days resulted in improvements in metabolic markers. Subjects showed improvements in plasma glucose, insulin, and total cholesterol compared to baseline measurements.1
Goji berries, also known as Chinese wolfberry, have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. This orange-red fruit offers high amounts of protein, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Goji also provides high levels of many antioxidants, especially beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Research has looked at goji for a wide range of purported health benefits, including immune function, metabolic syndrome, and neurological disorders. In rabbits, goji berry has lowered blood glucose, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, in addition to improving insulin resistance in diabetic rats. However, none of this research is validated through expert-reviewed clinical trials, and all research was completed on either laboratory animals or in vitro work .2
Goji is in the family Solanaceae, related to the tomato, potato, and eggplant, and offers many of the same antioxidants. Those who take warfarin should be advised that consuming any products containing goji may cause an interaction.