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Aronia health benefits: From Jicarilla to modern days

The aronia berry native to North America has a wide array of health benefits. Hence, it deserves a special place in the kitchen. Find out why.

July 09, 2019 12:13 pm

The Apache of North America, arguably best known of all the groups living in the northern territory, witnessed first-hand white America’s birth. They saw the nation’s violent adolescence displace the indigenous population and watched as the country journeyed into power, climaxing in a consolidation of global dominance. However, they are not a people defined in an opposition of the U.S. Today, they continue to exist within their own rich, historical tapestry of cultural traditions.

Consisting of thirteen tribes, the ways in which Apache differ from one another are numerous and far-reaching. From where their names draw meaning to the land and histories they call their own. Yet, particular cultural elements prevail throughout all Apache peoples. They include: their oppression by the nation states of Mexico and the USA, adherence to an animistic worldview and consequently, their practice of certain ceremonies. For example, one shared ceremony, rich in historical importance and symbolic cultural identity, is the rite of passage through which teenage girls must pass through to gain womanhood. The Apache call this rite ‘the Sunrise Ceremony’.

 

aronia berries

The Sunrise Ceremony

Performed to strengthen the individual girl along with her whole tribe, the Sunrise Ceremony marks an important passage from child to womanhood. The running of the rite is based on the notion of fours; four stages of life, infant, child, teen, adult, four sacred mountains, the four directions of the land and of prayer. The young women who undertake the Sunrise Ceremony are guided through four days, with each harking to different essential elements laid out. They must overcome each sacred mountain and only by her display of tenacity can the adolescent demonstrate her commitment to the tribe, winning their respect. Without it, she will never be seen as having fully entered womanhood.

In the evening of the twelfth and final day of passage, after he has finished dining with her, the medicine man will gift the newly titled young woman her Apache name. She holds onto this for the rest of her life. The ceremony ends with this but begins with the young woman running four laps between her tipi and a traditional woven basket. One Apache tribe, the Jicarilla, which derives its name from the Spanish word for this little basket, are differentiated by their title. They became known as the Jicarilla due to their fondness of drinking from these small sealed baskets, using them as a type of jug.

Aronia was a food staple for the Jicarilla.

Aronia berries were an important and frequently used food staple for many American first nations and the berry itself was usually eaten raw or dried and mixed with pemmican. The Jicarilla particularly, dried the fruit and pressed them into cakes which they stockpiled for the winter months. The fresh berries could be mashed and made into a jam, or simply left to ferment and used as cherry wine. Every single part of the plant had a use and even its bark and roots can be boiled to produce a form of medicinal tea. → View Related Products

"This sturdy little bush, able to grow in the harshest of environments, serves its cultivators greatly."

 

At first sight, the vibrant aronia berry resembles a concord grape combined with either a blueberry or cranberry. But, it’s more than the deep purple colour that is catching our attention these days. It’s all the aronia health benefits that are packed inside.

What are the aronia health benefits?

Aronia berries contain an impressive amount of nutrients, including vitamin C, polymeric proanthocyanins, and anthocyanins.(1)(3) For instance, a 100g serving of aronia berries provides over a third of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin C.(1) Vitamin C plays a vital role in the cardiovascular health, synthesis of structural protein collagen, and the absorption of iron. Speaking of which, a 100g serving of aronia berries contains about 8% DV of iron.

Furthermore, aronia is packed with health-promoting phenolic compounds. In fact, it is one of the richest plant sources of these substances. These naturally occurring plant metabolites, mostly anthocyanins, contribute to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial health benefits of aronia.(2)(4)(5)

Finally, whole aronia berries are an excellent source of dietary fibre. You probably already know that eating fibre-rich foods promotes digestion. But there’s more to it. For example, fibre may help your body to maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of diabetes.

In summary, here are three key health benefits that aronia berries may have. → View Related Products

1. Aronia fights free radical damage.

Firstly, aronia can protect you against oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a type of unstable molecules that contains oxygen and that easily reacts with other molecules in a cell.(6) Excessive production of ROS can be harmful, potentially leading to oxidative stress that can damage our cell structures, triggering damage to lipids, proteins and DNA. The antioxidant properties of phenols have been studied to inhibit the formation of ROS and the common catalysts.(5)(7)(8)(9)

If you’re curious just how powerful these berries are, let’s compare their antioxidant capability to that of blueberries and raspberries. Most of us are familiar with these berries and may even eat them as a source of antioxidants. For our comparison, let’s take the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of all three. Aronia berries have a score of 16,062 μ mol TE/100g, compared with blueberries at 4,669 μ mol TE/100g and red raspberries with 5,065 μ mol TE/100g.(10) Now you get the idea.

 

aronia smoothie

2. Aronia is anti-inflammatory.

Secondly, aronia berries may have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is our body’s defense against potentially harmful external factors. During this process, excess free radicals are produced and certain molecules can trigger ROS. Polyphenols act as an inhibitor of pro-inflammatory mediators that may be potentially harmful to our body.(5) → View Related Products

3. Aronia is antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial.

Finally, aronia may help your body to fight pathogens. We often treat infections or diseases with antibiotics. Nevertheless, if misused or overused, our body can become resistant to various microorganisms making the infections harder to treat. Additionally, antibiotics sometimes kill off the beneficial bacteria. The activity of polyphenols, however, has proven to be successful in strains of diseases and infections that are resistant to antibiotics.(5)(11)

 

energy balls

Key aronia health benefits

To sum up, aronia health benefits are quite impressive. These berries are excellent to protect your body cells from oxidation due to their high content of phenols. On top of that, aronia berries can fight inflammation, support cardiovascular health and promote digestion. Oh, and they do a great job in nourishing your skin→ View Related Products

What do aronia berries taste like?

Aronia berries have a distinctive, mildly astringent and sweet flavour. So, if you like dry red wines, you will love the taste of aronia berries. The dry mouth feeling comes from organic compounds called tannins, also present in black tea and fine dry wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux. Not a bad company to be in!

How to enjoy aronia

Certainly, consuming fresh organic aronia berries is the best way to enjoy their health benefits. On the other hand, raw aronia powder, dried whole berries or juice are also very nutritious.

Erbology Aronia Shot is pure, undiluted and unsweetened, made from 100% organically grown aronia berries. In other words, you’ll enjoy the aronia health benefits without any nasties. Take the shot straight or add it to a smoothie or cocktail. The 40ml / 1.4 fl oz booster is the perfect daily dose, especially great when traveling, while the 250ml bottle of Pure Aronia Juice will last you for about a week if you keep it refrigerated.

Is yogurt, smoothie or porridge part of your morning routine? Then, Erbology Raw Aronia Powder or these dried berries are a great addition. In addition to the nutrients that fight oxidative stress, they’re an excellent source of fibre that keeps you feel full for longer.

But, if you have no time to make a smoothie bowl in the morning, no worries. We’ve still got you covered. Aronia is one of the amazing ingredients in our delicious Energy Bites and Tigernut Granola. Above all, our snacks are gluten-free, free from added sugar and raw. In other words, they retain their excellent health benefits and unique taste.

Recipes with aronia

The combination of earthy beetroot and tangy aronia berries is so good that we have been experimenting with both sweet and savoury recipes. Above all, try this easy to make, skin nourishing Pink beetroot smoothie. All you need is almond milk, ripe banana, dried aronia berries, raw beetroot, agave nectar and lemon juice. The result? A delicious and nourishing drink to energise you for the day.

 

beetroot soup

This Velvet beetroot and aronia soup recipe is perfect for lunch or dinner, especially on a chilly autumn or winter day. Did you know that beets may help purify your blood and liver due to high content of betalain pigments? Scientists once thought that betalain pigments were related to anthocyanins (the pigments present in aronia berries). Nevertheless, these two powerful nutrients are structurally different and have not been found in the same plant together. Therefore, we can only conclude that beets and aronia are a match made in heaven.

 

Having friends over? Serve this delicious Sage and orange cocktail. All you need is five ingredients and fifteen minutes of your time. Sage leaves and cinnamon make the aromas of this drink irresistible.

 

Finally, we’ve got something for the chocolate lovers, too. This Aronia, pumpkin and chocolate smoothie is an excellent combination of aronia health benefits and wonderful raw chocolate properties. This drink is a great source of energy, especially before a workout.

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References

(1) “Aronia berry nutrition facts and calories”. Self Nutrition Data, https://bit.ly/2RSqti1.

(2) “Health Benefits of Aronia Berries”. HealWithFood.org, https://bit.ly/219A2vU.

(3) Jan Oszmianski, Aneta Wojdylo. “Aronia melanocarpa phenolics and their antioxidant activity”, European Food Research and Technology, 2005, Volume 221, Issue 6, pp 809-813.

(4) Olas, B, et al. “Effects of Polyphenol-Rich Extract from Berries of Aronia Melanocarpa on the Markers of Oxidative Stress and Blood Platelet Activation”. Platelets., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013, https://bit.ly/2GK3uE3.

(5) Działo, Magdalena, et al. “The Potential of Plant Phenolics in Prevention and Therapy of Skin Disorders”. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, MDPI, 2016, https://bit.ly/2SHaKqC.

(6) “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms”. National Cancer Institute, https://bit.ly/2TFxsfT.

(7) Samoylenko A., Hossain J.A., Mennerich D., Kellokumpu S., Hiltunen J.K., Kietzmann T. Nutritional countermeasures targeting reactive oxygen species in cancer: From mechanisms to biomarkers and clinical evidence. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 2013;19:2157–2196.doi: 10.1089/ars.2012.4662.

(8) Liaudanskas M., Viskelis P., Raudonis R., Kviklys D., Uselis N., Janulis V. Phenolic composition and antioxidant activity of Malus domesticaleaves. Sci. World J. 2014;2014:306217. doi: 10.1155/2014/306217.

(9) Alov P., Tsakovska I., Pajeva I. Computational studies of free radical-scavenging properties of phenolic compounds. Curr. Top. Med. Chem. 2015;15:85–104. doi: 10.2174/1568026615666141209143702.

(10) “Chokeberry (Aronia Berries), Raw”. Superfoodly, https://bit.ly/2DzpApz.

(11) “The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse”. Edited by Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, 2015, https://bit.ly/2RWJUWQ.