We seem to have somehow forgotten the wild blackberries and blackcurrants we picked in the garden as children. Yet as we move towards more natural, plant-based diets, there is a renewed appreciation of the role berry fruits can play in our daily diet.
With the help of science, there are compelling reasons for us to look again at the many health benefits of these old favourites – and to consider them an exciting ‘new’ addition to our diet.
What are Aronia berries?
Long known by Native Americans for their healing qualities, dark black Aronia berries are indigenous to the northeastern states of the USA. Grown on a shrub-like bush, the berries were traditionally used as support for ills and chills, and were valued for their nutritional and antiseptic properties.
This small black berry has now been rediscovered by modern science, and it holds some very big surprises. The Aronia berry is an extraordinary source of antioxidant polyphenols. In particular, it is one of the plant kingdom’s richest sources of anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are natural plant pigments, responsible for the blue, purple, and red colour of many fruits and vegetables (the word anthocyanin comes from Greek – anthos meaning flower and kuanos, dark blue). They are particularly prominent in dark, berry fruit.
Anthocyanins are recognised as powerful antioxidants, but new evidence has revealed they play a much wider role in human health for many metabolic processes. Higher anthocyanin intake is consistently related to improvement in a number of health biomarkers. Increasing our daily anthocyanin intake may be one of the most profound and yet easiest, ways to improve our health.
Aronia health benefits
It is Aronias’ unique mix of anthocyanins and other polyphenols which confers its strong antioxidant activity and potential therapeutic benefits.
The strong antioxidant properties of Aronia can support many health issues including cardiovascular health and the immune system.
Because of Aronia’s support for healthy cholesterol and normal blood pressure, it is currently the focus of further research into these areas.
As modern science continues to test and validate many ancient health remedies, Aronia is emerging as a strong contributor in the search for more natural health maintenance.
Aronia in New Zealand
The New Zealand Aronia story began 10 years ago. Alexandra dentist Ross Meldrum and horticulturalist Barry Mackie began a search for alternative crops, which could survive and thrive in Central Otago’s hot summers and subzero winters.
Coming from a similar continental-type climate, Aronia appeared to be an interesting candidate. Although virtually unknown in New Zealand, the decision was made to source and propagate Aronia Melanocarpa.
It was as if the plant had found a new home! Not only did it thrive, but the high UV light of the region induced extraordinary polyphenol levels in Central Otago Aronia berries – even by world standards. Testing by the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, confirmed New Zealand Aronia had amongst the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit measured to date.
The berries are harvested in late summer, freeze-dried to preserve maximum bioactivity, then granulated for ease of use. No additives or anticaking agents are added. It is presented as a 100% pure berry powder. Aronias’ common name ‘chokeberry’ hints at its natural tartness due to the high tannin levels, and gives an edge to smoothie mixes, breakfast cereals and baking.
Interested in giving Aronia berries a try? Visit your local Community Health Store to find out more.