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Nutrition tipp: Aronia - a purple panacea?
01.08.2018
Nutrition tipp: Aronia - a purple panacea?
The aronia berry is considered a cure-all and is increasingly gaining recognition, not least because it has become the focus of research and study. What is actually behind this hype? Keep reading to find out whether these berries are deserving of their reputation. (Photo: ©AdobeStock/HandmadePictures)

Botanical background


Also known as chokeberry, the aronia berry is native to North America and eastern Canada. The berry found its way to Europe and via Germany to Russia. It is today grown mainly in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Germany. Increasing popularity and the fact that it is a very undemanding plant have led to increased cultivation here in Austria. The name chokeberry was replaced by the genus name aronia, which is further divided into two species: aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry) and aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry). The variety used in the production of juice comes largely from the black chokeberry. Because of its bitter and astringent taste (slightly contracted mouthfeel), the berry is seldom sold as a fresh berry, but it is used in the making of syrups, juices or jellies.

Inside the aronia berry


The ingredients or, better said, the amounts of the individual substances depend primarily on cultivation, maturation, location and time of harvest. The berries provide 5.62 g of fibre per 100 g, compared to an apple containing 2 g of fibre per 100 g. The sugar content is 16 – 18%, with the content of sorbitol – a sugar substitute often found in “diet products” – at 80 g/l being higher than in any other berries. Aronia contains large amounts of vitamins and minerals. Above all, considerable amounts of zinc and potassium can be found in aronia juice. A high zinc and vitamin C content strengthens the immune system. Our bodies also need vitamin C to build connective tissue. Furthermore, the berries contain higher concentrations of folic acid. An adequate supply of folic acid is especially important for pregnant women to prevent malformations in unborn children. Beta carotene (provitamin A) and B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6) are also part of the aronia berry repertoire, and are present in significant amounts. The core of the aronia berry contains small amounts of amygdalin, which promotes the release of toxic hydrogen cyanide in the body. However, according to the Max Rubner Institute, consumption is harmless. 100 g of fresh, raw berries contains about 11 to 20 mg of amygdalin, which is 0.6 to 1.2 mg of bound hydrogen cyanide. Comparatively, bitter apricot kernels that are served as a snack contain about 2.4 mg of hydrogen cyanide per 100 g. Because of their taste, aronia berries are seldom eaten raw, and the hydrocyanic acid is further reduced during the heating process. The consumption of aronia products (juice, jam, jelly, etc.) is, therefore, unproblematic. If you do want to try the fresh berries, a small portion is not considered dangerous as the highest concentration is found in the kernels, which are not completely crushed when chewed.

Antioxidants - a defence system


The purple berry scores highly with its impressive proportion of antioxidant substances, known as polyphenols, which are responsible for its positive properties. The term antioxidant refers to the ability to trap cell-damaging oxygen compounds (free radicals) in the tissue. These antioxidants can be found in many fruits and vegetables. The most important polyphenols in the aronia berry include phenolic acid and flavonoids like anthocyanins and procyanidins, flavanol and flavonol (difficult terms that you don’t need to remember, but that serve as information). They protect our cells from free radicals. Thus, the antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which damages the cells and is responsible for the aging process. Among other things, free radicals are caused by our digestion and the consequences of our lifestyles, such as stress, UV radiation or environmental toxins, which can lead to illnesses. In short: aronia berries have a very high content of antioxidants, and these defend our bodies against harmful free radical attacks.
The antioxidant capacity of substances is measured using the ORAC measurement method (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity). The higher this value, the better the antioxidant capacity of the food. A number of other berries also score high in antioxidants. The following table provides an overview of the concentrations of antioxidants in a variety of berries.

  Total content of polyphenols (per 100 g fruit) Anthocyanins ORAC
Aronia berries 2.080 mg 240 mg/100 g frozen fruit / 3.529 mg/l juice 159,2
Blackberries 248 mg 949,4 mg/100 g dry weight 55,7
Blueberries 525 mg 1.562,2 mg/100 g dry weight 123,4
Cranberries 120 - 315 mg   18,5
Currants 560 mg 1.741,6/100 g dry weight 56,7
Strawberries 225 mg 60-80 g/100 g fruit 20,6
Concentrations of polyphenols and anthocyanins as well as their antioxidant capacities (ORAC) of various selected berries (adapted according to B. Olas, 2018; Kulling and Rawel, 2008).

Potential health benefits


Many studies show a health-promoting effect: aronia berries and/or aronia extract have shown an inhibition of cancer cell growth in animals i.e. carcinopreventive and hepatoprotective (protecting the liver) effects. Other evidence suggests that aronia is thought to have a positive impact on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as lowering bad blood lipids (cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides). In addition, a preventive effect on diabetes mellitus and an improvement in diabetes therapy were demonstrated. The violet-coloured berries also have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Conclusion:


In summary, it can be said that aronia is one of the berries with the highest levels of antioxidants important to our health. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that other berries also provide many antioxidants and nutrients. Whether everyone should drink aronia juice daily is an open question.
As always, our recommendation is: Eat a wide variety of foods and include seasonal produce. Vary your berry consumption for the highest positive effect.

You can find further information here:
www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles

Bibliography: Olas B. Berry Phenolic Antioxidants – Implications for Human Health? Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2018;9:78. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00078.
Kulling SE, Rawel HM. Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)– A Review on the Characteristic Components and Potential Health Effects. Planta Med 2008;74(13):1625-34. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1088306.

Do you have an other questions? Please wrote an e-mail to marketing@backaldrin.com

Carmen und Jasmin Klammer
Nutrition scientist and dietician

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