Superfoods — Those wonderful little gifts from nature that provide us with so many healthful benefits. In the past decade or so, the term ‘superfoods’ has been primarily used to refer to the produce category -in particular berries, but has also been used to refer to foods as varied as tea, soy and quinoa. The current spotlight seems to be on the acai, goji berry and mangosteen. Each of these ‘exotic’ fruits are purported to promote better health by fighting anything from cancer to aging.
Native to the Amazon rainforest, Acai, is a berry with a unique flavor that a combination of boysenberry and cherry, with slight overtones of chocolate. On Oprah, Dr. Perricone named it as one of the “Top Ten Superfoods for Age-Defying Beauty.” Touted as nature’s perfect energy fruit, the Acai boasts highly concentrated antioxidant properties that are believed to be 10 times more than is found in red grapes, and 10 to 30 times more than in red wine. Acai also contains amino acids and essential fatty acids that are key to muscle development and regeneration. Further, the Acai is a wonderful source of dietary fiber and phytosterols, both of which are essential to cardiovascular and digestive health. All in all, the health benefits of the Acai are numerous, and as it grows in popularity, you can find it most readily in juice forms at the market.
Herbalists in China, Tibet and India have used goji berries for more than 6,000 years to help with a variety of ailments ranging from protecting the liver and eyesight to improving fertility and circulation. Rich in antioxidant properties, the goji berry grows on an evergreen shrub, and is typically found when it is dried and resembles a red raisin. Goji berries have a mild tangy taste that is slightly sweet and sour. It boasts more vitamin C than oranges, is high in beta-carotene and is a good source of B vitamins and antioxidants. Further, the goji berry has 18 kinds of amino acids and is rich in potassium and polysaccharides, which aid the immune system. Goji berries are readily available in dried forms, and can often be found as an ingredient in a trail mix. They can also be found in juice form as well as an ingredient in a tea blend.
This tropical fruit, mainly grown in Southeast Asia, is the size of a small peach and has a dark purple skin with a hard rind. The tannins found in the rind of the mangosteen are purported to have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties that may be helpful for conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and other skin conditions. Inside, the pulp resembles a peach or pineapple in taste.
There has been much hype about this fruit lately, and when found in juice form can retail for upwards of $37 a bottle. This leads to the question, “Are the benefits worth the high price?” Well, the research on the benefits is somewhat inconclusive. There have been no clinical trials that show that extracts from the mangosteen fruit have had a beneficial effect in humans. Additionally, there is inconclusive evidence as to how these mangosteen extracts interfere with certain medicines. Despite the inconclusive evidence, this delicious fruit is becoming increasingly popular in juice and extract forms as marketers continue to promote its innate beneficial qualities. Hopefully, a better price point is on the horizon.