Everyone loves a superhero.
Who can deny the excitement of watching a character, endowed with special powers, valiantly protect those in need, while fighting off evil villains?
Although we can easily get caught up in a story with a hero, at the end of the day we recognize that most superheroes are simply fictional characters in a story.
Occasionally, however, superheroes can be real. In the world of food, we call them superfoods. These delicacies have qualities that give them special powers to heal and defeat the bad guys at the cellular level.
The black chokeberry (also known as Aronia) exemplifies the superhero persona and offers us these 7 powerful benefits when we include them in our diet.
What better place for a superhero to make a difference than in the second leading cause of death – cancer.
The deep purple color of this little berry gives away one of its secrets. The compound actually responsible for its color is called an anthocyanin. Researchers have found that anthocyanins have strong anti-carcinogenic properties.(1)
Aronia, which has higher concentrations of anthocyanins than the ever-popular blueberry, can impact the growth of cancer with a solid one-two punch:
- Studies show that it successfully inhibits the growth of cancer cells by blocking various stages of the cancer cell’s life.
- It also induces a process called apoptosis – which causes a cancer cell to commit suicide.
The odds of dealing with some form of cancer increases as we age. Including foods that have anticancer properties seems to be a simple, proactive step to improving your odds.
For more information on the powerful effects of anthocyanins and how they are a secret weapon for good health, check out this article.
2) Defends Diabetics
The “Don’t” list for a diabetic may seem never ending and discouraging. Anyone reading food and drink labels will quickly discover that high amounts of sugar are in just about everything.
Aronia (black chokeberry) is actually an exception to the rule.
Studies done on patients with diabetes mellitus found that ingesting Aronia juice did not cause blood glucose levels to go up. Even more surprising was the fact that blood glucose levels measured after fasting were lower in those patients that had taken a daily dose of Aronia juice for three months.(2)
This is exciting news for those trying to manage diabetes and still get the health benefits that fruits can provide.
3) Powerful Antioxidant
By now, most people have heard of free radical damage, but take a poll of friends and family and you will find that most do not have a working definition of what it means.
Why is this important to know? Free radical damage is associated with many diseases and it is linked to aging.(3) Those two facts alone should be motivation enough to understand it and take action to prevent it.
In simple terms, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms in the body that have an odd number of electrons. Because electrons like to be paired up, they seek out another electron and in the process damage other cell membranes or DNA. As a result, these cells may die or function poorly. Unfortunately it does not end there but, instead, starts a chain reaction of free radicals searching for available electrons.
This is where our black chokeberry can help save the day.
Aronia happens to be chock full of antioxidants, which is our body’s number one defense against the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants meet up with the scavengers and put a stop to the chain reaction.
A diet rich in antioxidants is a powerful and preventative approach to fighting disease and early aging.
4) Weight Control
Even if you are currently healthy and not dealing with any apparent medical issues, this benefit probably caught your attention. According to a recent Gallup poll, 53% of Americans want to lose weight. That breaks down to 60% of women and 46% of men that are not happy with their current numbers on the scale.(4)
In spite of the dissatisfaction, however, losing weight seems to be an elusive goal.
Some schools of thought would promote that it is simply a matter of calories in and calories out, yet other factors like genetics, hormones, medication, and lifestyle cannot be ignored if you want to succeed at maintaining a healthy weight.
One factor is a hormone called adiponectin. In short, this is the hormone that tells your body to use fat for fuel. Research shows that supplementation with black chokeberry enhances the secretion of this important hormone.(5)
Interestingly, Gallup also reported that we have reset our “ideal” weight significantly higher since the 1950’s. Even if we changed our minds about what is aesthetically appealing in regards to weight, we need to remember that carrying extra weight in the form of fat, equates to a risk factor for so many medical conditions.
5) Urinary Tract Health
If you have ever suffered the discomfort, inconvenience, and pain of a urinary tract infection (UTI), then the motivation to avoid another one is probably strong. Cranberry juice has long been the go-to remedy for many who are prone to UTIs.
However, Aronia juice has been found to be 5-10 times more effective.This is probably due to an extremely high content of quinic acid, which makes the urine so acidic that bacterial growth and the formation of kidney stones is prevented.
UTIs are, unfortunately, a common occurrence among nursing home residents. A study that gave black chokeberry juice to residents across 6 nursing homes found that the occurrence of urinary tract infections dropped 55% in those residents receiving the juice.(6)
If you are someone who seems prone to getting a UTI (3 or more times a year) then having some form of this super berry on hand is prudent.
6) Lowers Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association reports that 1 in 3 adults suffer from high blood pressure. Not only does this increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and cardiac death, but over time, if left unaddressed, the heart muscle is weakened.
A healthy diet and consistent exercise are two powerful ways to positively affect your blood pressure. Choosing foods that are rich in polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins, is a protective step you can take to help stay out of the danger zone.
A study looking at individuals that had high normal to stage 1 and 2 hypertension found that their blood pressure was significantly reduced as quickly as 6 weeks into taking a berry juice including Aronia.(7)
Once again we see that improving our health can be about many small, but purposeful decisions.
This superhero benefit is a biggie – especially in light of the more recent understanding that chronic inflammation plays a significant role in a very broad range of diseases. No longer seen as simply a symptom, chronic inflammation may actually be the cause for many of our ailments.(8)
Acute inflammation starts out as our body’s natural response to an infiltrator – this is a good thing and means that our immune system is on point. However, the problem arises when, thanks to a constant assault from pathogens, it turns into a chronic inflammation.
Common aggravators that might cause this are:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Food allergies
This is a scary list because most of us come in contact with one or more of these daily. Thanks to superfoods like the chokeberry, we have a weapon to fight back. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it our ally against many of the leading causes of death.
For example, a study looking at patients struggling with some level of cardiovascular disease found that the pro-inflammatory response was significantly inhibited in those who regularly supplemented with an Aronia extract.(9)
Put Good Information to Good Use
If you regularly read up on the latest health news you probably realize that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. How could you not? It seems that information is changing by the second.
However, you might notice that certain things about our ability to affect our health stay the same – such as incorporating these elements:
- Good nutrition
- Sufficient rest
- Consistent exercise
These three really cannot be ignored if your goal is to do everything you can to impact your quality of life.
The key is to not allow your feeling of being overwhelmed prevent you from making small and purposeful changes. The superheroes of food pack a powerful punch when it comes to improving our health. Incorporating them should be viewed as a simple and doable step towards your good future.
We would love to hear from you. Leave us a comment about how you plan to include chokeberries and/or other superfoods to your daily routine.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!
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References:(1) Wang, Li-Shu and Stoner, Gary D (2008) Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2582525/
(2) Simeonov, SB and Botushanov, NP and Karahanian, EB and Pavlova, MB and Husianitis, HK and Troev, DM (2002) Effects of Aronia melanocarpa juice as part of the dietary regimen in patients with diabetes mellitus. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?uid=12580526&cmd=showdetailview&indexed=google
(3) Lobo, V and Patil, A and Phatak, A and Chandra, N (2010) Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/
(4) Gallup Poll Social Series (2016) Fewer Americans in This Decade Want to Lose Weight. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/198074/fewer-americans-lose-weight-past-decade.aspx
(5) Sonoda, Keisuke and Aoi, Wataru and Iwata, Tomoaki and Li, Yanmei (2013) Anthocyanin-rich Aronia melanocarpa extract improves body temperature maintenance in healthy women with a cold constitution. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3843504/
(6) Handeland, M and Grude, N and Torp, T and Slimestad, R (2014) Black chokeberry juice (Aronia melanocarpa) reduces incidences of urinary tract infection among nursing home residents in the long term–a pilot study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25026919
(7) Tjelle, TE and Holtung, L and Bohn, SK and Aaby, K and Thorensen, M and Wiik, SA and Paur, I and Karlsen, AS and Retterstol, K and Iversen, PO and Blomhoff, R (2015) Polyphenol-rich juices reduce blood pressure measures in a randomised controlled trial in high normal and hypertensive volunteers. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26227795
(8) Hunter, Philip (2012) The inflammation theory of disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/
(9) Zapolska-Downar, D and Bryk, D and Malecki, M and Hajdukiewicz, K and Sitkiewicz, D (2011) Aronia melanocarpa fruit extract exhibits anti-inflammatory activity in human aortic endothelial cells. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3397226/