A wild berry species native to North America, aronia has been the object of intensive research over the past few years. According to the international scientific community, aronia berries have surprising nutritional benefits. The species of berry boasts concentrated levels of anthocyanins, natural purple, blue and red pigments with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. Aronia berries have the highest antioxidant content of all known fruits, and scientists believe that regular consumption can provide important health benefits.
The fruits contain generous amounts of vitamins C and K as well as manganese, three potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. They are a good source of iron and further provide small amounts of vitamin A, folic acid and vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Overall, aronia berries have tonic, energizing properties and provide benefits for eyesight and skin in particular. With a good iron and folic acid content, the berries make a good food for pregnant women while their anti-inflammatory action recommends them for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Aronia berries, also known as chokeberries, grow on shrubs and come in a variety of colors: Aronia arbutifolia or red aronia, Aronia prunifolia or purple aronia and Aronia melanocarpa or black aronia. The species is surprisingly resilient to extreme weather conditions which is why gardeners have become very found of the beautiful, feisty shrub. To an untrained eye, aronia plants can be easily mistaken for other berry varieties. However, these small, round, smooth, colorful berries have a tiny, star-like distinctive mark which can help one tell them apart from other berry species. In addition to this, the Aronia melanocarpa variety, for instance, changes its leaf color in autumn, turning a rich, rubiginous color.
The color of the black aronia berry and that of its leaves are a rich source of anthocyanins and are indicative of an incredibly high antioxidant content. Anthocyanins basically protect the aronia shrub against radiation damage coming from ultraviolet rays. It is believed that regular consumption of the berries can have the same protective and rejuvenating effects on people.
But regardless of the variety, aronia berries in general contain significantly higher concentrations of anthocyanins than any other fruit: approximately 1480 mg/100 g of fresh fruit. Also, 100 g of fresh berries contain 664 mg of proanthocyanidins. Because they are incredibly rich in anthocyanins, they are believed to efficiently protect against degenerative neurological diseases, inflammatory conditions, cancer, diabetes as well as infectious disease.
Moreover, due to their high antioxidant content, they help protect the body against free radical action and repair any cell damage caused by oxidation processes. Interesting fact: anthocyanins are pigments responsible for the naturally occurring shades of red, blue and purple in plants. Aside from strong antioxidant effects, anthocyanins make brightly-colored fruits and leaves which are meant to attract pollinating animals, birds or bees which help the plants disperse their seeds.
Preliminary laboratory studies have shown that aronia extracts can efficiently prevent tumor development. When targeting specific cancers, the extract appeared to inhibit the growth of tumors. Chemically induced esophagus cancer in rats was reduced with about 60%, while colon tumors were reduced with about 80%.
Overall, research appears to be very promising. Multiple studies show that a regular consumption of berries (blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrant, mulberries, red and yellow raspberries and aronia) significantly reduces the risks of developing various forms of cancer. Berries are a rich source of polyphenols, natural compounds similar to anthocyanins with potent antioxidant effects.
Aside from this, aronia berries are a relatively generous source of vitamins and minerals. For instance, the berries provide 21 mg of vitamin C out of the recommended daily intake of 91 mg. Among other functions, vitamin C supports the production of collagen, boosts immunity and reduces inflammation levels in the body. Note that inflammation is one of the main causes of many debilitating conditions from arthritis to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, the berries contain moderate amounts of vitamins K, A, E and B9. This means eating aronia supports bone health, promotes good vision, beautiful skin and helps the body make good use of nutrients. Aronia berries provide 0.646 mg of manganese, a mineral with excellent antioxidant properties. Folic acid and iron support red blood cell production and help in the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns, making aronia a good choice of food for pregnant women. Potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc are other nutrients also found in the berries and are responsible for their tonic, energizing action.
What do aronia berries taste like? Fresh aronia berries taste sour or astringent (the less ripe they are, the more astringent). Eating the fresh berries causes a dry mouth sensation that some people might find unappealing, to say the least. The astringency of the fresh berries that causes the mouth-puckering effect is a result of a high content of naturally occurring components known as tannins. Ripe and dried aronia berries taste less astringent which is why they are often preferred to the fresh berries.
Overall, aronia berries provide numerous, quite wonderful health benefits, on the condition they are consumed fresh or dried, not processed in sweets, baked goods, sugary juices or similar unhealthy options. If you have a passion for gardening, the species promises to be the pride and joy of your garden and it really doesn’t require much attention at all. If you are skeptic about the health benefits of the berries, you can just try them to see for yourself if they deliver the promised results. A regular consumption of the berries, as part of a healthy, balanced diet should tell you all you need to know about their properties and health effects. You can opt for fresh berries or a delicious glass of aronia juice. Either way, you will enjoy a treat and get on the path to a truly healthy lifestyle.