Aronia has piqued everyone’s interest lately, both the public eye and the scientific community, as it has established its place amongst the rest of the superfoods, that are a group of foods which contain a variety of nutrients and vitamins that are beneficial to our well-being. Below follows an extensive description of the aronia plant and fruit, as well as the facts on its nutrional value and health benefits.
Some information about aronia
Aronia is a deciduous bush that reaches about 3 meters in height and thrives in forests and marshes since it needs a lot of water to grow and prosper. There are three distinct variations of the plant with a different fruit color (red, purple, deep purple); the variation with the deep purple fruits is the one with the most nutritional interest (Aronia Melanocarpa). Although this plant came from North America, it has been farmed regularly throughout Europe and Asia (as well Russia since 1940 and in other European countries after 1950), so it is prominent that Greek Economy can benefit from farming the aronia plants. The fruit ripens and are ready for the harvest usually around late August and early September.
The aronia fruit is relatively sour with a slight acidic taste and a bitter almond aroma in its raw form. However, after proper processing it can be used in pastry dishes, such as jams, jello or plainly as juice, wine and liquor. It can also be used a food additive.
Aronia: What nutritional value does it have?
Aronia fruits, like most berries, are rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins and procyanidins which are the active ingredients in blueberries and grape extract. Anthocyanins has shown to be anti-inflammatory, to have anticancer properties and to protect cells from stress and thus help improve systematic inflammation in correlation to many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Aronia is in fact the second richest berry in anthocyanins; it contains double the amount of phenols compared to blackberries, 4 times that of blueberries and 10 time that of strawberries!
Besides polyphenols, aronia fruits also contain a vast amount of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and pectins all of which contribute to the fruit’s health benefits! the following chart is a summary of aronia’s main nutrients that are present in the natural juice:
Ingredients Natural Aronia Juice (Non pasteurized)
Lastly, regarding the fruits’ calorie value about 100 grams of dried aronia fruit attribute to 375 kcal. The suggested portion is about 15 grams or 1/3 of a cup.
Aronia has been studied thoroughly in the lab, both in vitro and in vivo, on animal models but also on humans.
Historically, aronia has been used in ointments and patches to battle the flue. Today, aronia consumption contributes in better glucose metabolism (with a decrease in glucose blood levels as well as glycated hemoglobin, or simply HbA1c blood levels), a decrease in cholesterol and triglycerides blood levels and also a decrease in fatty acids oxidation and peroxidation. Due to all of the above aronia has been studies as a means to battle cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer!
Aronia and Cardiovascular Disease
Studies in populations with high cholesterol, triglycerides blood levels and high blood pressure have shown a slight decrease of those levels after 2 months of consuming 300 mg of the active ingredients of aronia daily. The results however fluctuate greatly and do not seem to be applicable to the healthy population. Furthermore aronia seem to posses antithrombotic and vasoprotective properties that reinforce its cardioprotective actions, as in vitro studies concluded. Finally in studies based on animals, aronia consumption turned out to stop visceral fat from being stored in the body, which is a characteristic of the metabolic syndrome (increased visceral fat storage).
Aronia and Glucose Metabolism
Aronia consumption in regard with glucose metabolism has been studied better than any other impact on the body! Research on animals and humans has shown that aronia consumption has a clinically significant hypoglycaemic effect! In fact, one of the studies suggests that the addition of 200ml of unsweetened aronia juice to the participants daily diet for a period of 3 months can visibly decrease sugar blood levels up to 20% in diabetic patients (type II Diabetes) in comparison to the test group.
Aronia and Cancer
All cancer research yet is strictly in vitro, meaning in the lab, and has shown that aronia extract can stop cancer cells’ proliferation and even cause apoptosis on the cancer cells, a process that kills cancer cells without inflammation. However it yet to be determined whether this effects healthy tissue as well. All of the above have been studied on human cancer cells that came from the breast, neck, blood and colon.
Aronia seems to be have a special spot amongst all other berries that have really important health benefits thanks to its high phenol content. Research has shown a rather encouraging effect of the aronia fruit’s properties on people’s health and well-being, especially with inflammatory disease, cradiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. Therefore -taking into consideration that no food on its own is any kind of panacea- aronia could be the best addition to everyone’s diet for a balanced, nutritious healthy lifestyle!