Why You Should Be Eating This Powerful Berry
The chokeberry plant is native to the Northeastern US and bears its fruit in the fall. The berries are known to be rich in nutrients that offer potential benefits in the prevention of cancer, aging, inflammation, diabetes, and neurological disease.
There are two main types of chokeberry (aronia) – black and red. Although the black berries (aronia melanocarpa) are less sweet, they have been found to be among the highest of all fruits in phytochemicals known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that protect the body against oxidative stress and resulting diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
A recent study by researchers in France examined the potential positive effects of chokeberry juice on the arteries. They found that the polyphenols contained within Aronia melanocarpa increased the formation of nitric oxide, a soluble gas in the endothelium, the layer of cells that line the interior surface of the blood vessels. This helps improve the function of these cells and can reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
A separate study, conducted at the University of Connecticut, found that the antioxidant properties of chokeberries helped to lower cholesterol in mice by improving the function of the liver. Those fed a diet high in chokeberry extract had 12% less plasma total cholesterol than those fed a control diet.
Past research has also found these health benefits of chokeberry:
• Low in calories – just 47 calories per 100 grams. Plus, the peel is a good source of dietary fiber and several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Folate, Potassium, Iron and Manganese.
• Cancer research on anthocyanins in black chokeberries found that certain types of cancer cells were inhibited by the nutrients, particularly those of the esophagus and the colon.
• Another study found the chokeberry extract to inhibit weight gain in insulin-resistant (diabetic) animals. Those fed chokeberries weighed less, had lowered body fat, lower blood glucose and reduced levels of triglycerides as compared to controls.
• Carotene antioxidants help protect the eyes from age-related macular disease.
The black chokeberries are highest in anthocyanin content, but can be bitter. They are best enjoyed if they are mixed with other fruits, added to a smoothie, or folded into the batter of a baked product such as bread or muffins. They are also available in jams/jellies, syrups, or even wine. The red chokeberry fruit is sweeter and can be eaten raw.
Kim JH et al. Aronia melanocarpa juice, a rich source of polyphenols, induces endothelium-dependent relaxations in porcine coronary arteries via the redox-sensitive activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Nitric Oxide. 2013 Aug 20. pii: S1089-8603(13)00298-X. doi: 10.1016/j.niox.2013.08.002.
Taheri R et al. Underutilized Chokeberry ( Aronia melanocarpa , Aronia arbutifolia , Aronia prunifolia ) Accessions Are Rich Sources of Anthocyanins, Flavonoids, Hydroxycinnamic Acids, and Proanthocyanidins. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Aug 26.
Kim B et al. Aronia melanocarpa (chokeberry) polyphenol-rich extract improves antioxidant function and reduces total plasma cholesterol in apolipoprotein E knockout mice. Nutr Res. 2013 May;33(5):406-13. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.03.001. Epub 2013 Apr 18.