If you’re looking for big hit of vitamin C, the acerola cherry can certainly deliver. The fruit of the shrub-like tree (Malpighia emarginata) is native to the Caribbean, also going by the name Barbados cherry, and it might be the best source of vitamin C available.
Acerola cherries are versatile, too. They can be eaten raw, cooked into pies or jams, or added to smoothies as a powder. You can even pour yourself a glass of acerola cherry juice.
The fruit has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes to treat liver trouble, diarrhea, coughs, and colds, although there isn’t much supporting research for any of these uses. Its high vitamin C antioxidant content may make it useful in helping ease the symptoms and duration of a cold.
Unless you live in a tropical climate that can support their growth naturally, you’ll have to grow your own acerola cherries (indoors or out) or purchase them in supplement form. These tropical fruits have a very short lifespan and spoil quite quickly, so it may take some practice.
Acerola Cherry Nutrition Facts
Research has indicated the Barbados cherry is a vitamin C powerhouse. Although this antioxidant is common in a number of fruits and vegetables, these tropical cherries just might provide the best pound-for-pound punch out there.
One study suggested that, on a relative basis, acerola cherries had more vitamin C than every other fruit outside of rosehip.
Here are some nutrition facts for 100 grams of raw acerola cherries:
|Nutrient||Amount/% Daily Value (DV)|
|Protein||0.68-1.8 grams (g)|
|Calcium||8.2-34.6 (milligrams) mg|
|Vitamin A||38 mcg (15% DV)|
|Riboflavin||0.038-0.079 mg (5% DV)|
|Vitamin C||1,680 mg (1,800% DV)|
|Magnesium||18 mg (4% DV)|
|Potassium||146 mg (3% DV)|
|Copper||0.8 mg (10% DV)|
Research suggests that organically grown acerola cherries have the greatest concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. They are also a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which help provide the fruit’s pigment.
Acerola Cherry Health Benefits
High in Vitamin C
The most notable health benefit of the Barbados cherry is its concentrated dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays key roles in immune health, illness prevention, limiting oxidative stress, and more.
When taken as a supplement, acerola cherries are essentially a vitamin C supplement. While there are other important nutrients in the cherries, its defining feature for supplemental use is vitamin C value.
Getting adequate vitamin C each day is important because it is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and must be consumed daily. When you’re reaching the recommended vitamin C intake every day, your body is better prepared to fight illness and infection. There are studies that suggest an adequate vitamin C intake can reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold.
Vitamin C also plays a sizeable role in collagen production, which suggests it can contribute to wound healing and stronger skin and hair.
High in Antioxidants
Because of its high antioxidant content, acerola cherries may have other benefits that have yet to be fully understood. But based on what we know about diets high in antioxidants, these nutrients can play a role in heart health, brain health, eye health, disease risk, and inflammation.
Other Potential Benefits
Acerola cherries also have astringent properties, meaning it may promote healthier skin and digestive issues. There’s also some evidence of antimicrobial properties.
Various other potential uses for the cherries include:
- Digestive aid/anti-diarrhea
- Skin cream
How to Use Acerola Cherry
Acerola cherry can be used as a pie filling, made into jams, consumed in whole form as a snack, or taken as a supplement. It’s like any other cherry, berry, or fruit. However, there is one thing to keep in mind: Barbados cherries have a very short lifespan.
Ripe Barbados cherries bruise easily and are highly perishable. They can only be stored for about three days at 45 F. If half-ripe when picked, they may last five days. Freezing is required for longer storage. Barbados cherry juice can last in the fridge for about a week.
The fruit is described as having a sweet flavor when ripe, although it might be slightly acidic/bitter. Adding sweetener to jams and pie fillings may reduce the acidity if the taste is too strong for you.
You can eat the cherries as they are (just wash them first). They can be stewed with sugar for jams and pie fillings, or distributed atop cakes or ice cream. Remove the seeds if desired, because they can be a bit of a nuisance.
If you live outside of a tropical area—and aren’t growing them in your indoor garden—it is nearly impossible to get fresh acerola cherries. You’re more likely to consume them as supplements, including:
- Chewable tablets
- Liquid extracts (tinctures)
The powdered supplement is the most popular form, because it can be easily added to beverages like smoothies and juices. It is made from dehydrated acerola cherries.
It’s hard to quantify the benefits of adding Barbados cherries to your smoothie. There is no denying the potential superfood status of this fruit, but if you’re adding it to a drink that is already rich in vitamin C or antioxidants, it may not add much value. If you’re already taking a vitamin C supplement or eating enough fruit and vegetables, running out to find some acerola cherries may be a waste of time and money.
That said, their potential is still under-studied and potentially untapped. More research may uncover that these fruits may offer further benefits than are currently understood.
If you do decide to take a supplement, follow the directions on the package. A level teaspoon in a glass of water is generally recommended.
Acerola Cherry Recipes
Acerola Cherry Salsa
Total time: 10 minutes Servings: 3
- 1 1/2 cups acerola cherries, stalks and seeds removed
- 1 hot green chili
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander
- 4 cloves garlic
- Juice of 1 lime
- 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Allspice (small pinch)
- Coarse sea salt (pinch)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chop the chili, coriander, and garlic.
- Crush the cherries, separating the juice and setting it aside. Then finely chop the cherries.
- Blend together with remaining ingredients. Season to taste.
Oatmeal Barbados Cherry Bake
Prep time: 8 hours Cook time: 20 minutes Servings: 8
- 2 1/2 cups Barbados cherries, pitted
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix together rolled oats, yogurt, milk, and cinnamon and refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge and add more milk and yogurt to create a semi-liquid consistency.
- Wash Barbados cherries and remove seeds. Mix into oats mixture. Add sugar, if desired.
- Pour into a glass baking dish and bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes.
- Drizzle with honey and serve.
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