Superfruits from Around the World

Back before our taste buds were trashed by an excess of refined sugar,
fresh fruit was the dessert of choice. Today the news about fruit’s health
benefits is very sweet—and the best selections come from all over the planet.

July/August 2007

What’s tasty, healthy and hot, hot, hot? It’s the ongoing trend towards superfruits—nutrient-rich treasures that lend themselves to usage in an ever-expanding array of juices and supplements. Sales of such exotic items as goji, noni and mangosteen (in addition to more familiar produce such as blueberries and grapes) continue to grow as more and more people become familiar with their stellar antioxidant and other disease-fighting qualities. These plant versions of Superman now come from practically every continent except Antarctica, in addition to the myriad islands that dot the South Pacific seas; here Energy Times provides a quick introduction to the most notable of the lot.

Black Cherry: Wild and Wonderful

Where It’s From: Eastern North America
Traditional Usages: Jams and pies (the wood being prized for furniture-making); as a therapy for gout and respiratory disorders, and as a stomach tonic
Modern Research Shows: The cherry’s antioxidants appear to inhibit an enzyme called xanthine oxidase, a major source of harmful free radicals; additional phytonutrients and natural anti-inflammatory compounds are believed to relieve symptoms of gout and other inflammatory arthritis conditions

Pomegranate: A Vitamin C Powerhouse

Where It’s From: The area now known as Iran, from where it spread to the Mediterranean; now also grown in California and Arizona, as well as tropical Africa, Malaysia and parts of Southeast Asia
Traditional Usages: As a refreshing drink and flavoring agent (it was the original basis for grenadine)
Modern Research Shows: Chock full of vitamin C and powerful phytonutrients, this multi-seeded fruit has shown an ability to slow cancer growth in the lab; also being studied for protective effects on the brain and heart, and for its antimicrobial properties

Blueberry: The Ultimate Brain Food

Where It’s From: North America; now grown also in Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America
Traditional Usages: Jams, jellies, and baked goods; leaf tea long used to treat diabetes and urinary tract infections
Modern Research Shows: Having blueberries on the brain is a bright idea—these fruits have helped senior rats keep their mental edge and counteracted the kind of damage seen after strokes; other studies also suggest anti-cancer and cholesterol-lowering benefits

Cranberry: A Bladder’s Best Friend

Where It’s From: Acidic bogs throughout the Northern Hemi­sphere; commercially grown in Canada and the northern United States
Traditional Usages: Kidney stone elimination and as a blood purifier
Modern Research Shows: Keeps bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, allowing it to help prevent bladder infections; may also interfere with infective agents elsewhere

Noni: Powerful Polynesian Healer

Where It’s From: Southeast Asia; now grown from India to the South Pacific
Traditional Usages: Various parts of the tree have been used to bring down fevers, treat coughs, draw out skin infections and ease digestive ailments
Modern Research Shows: The juiced fruit contains robust antioxidants; also under investigation as a cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory agent

Grape: A Toast to the Heart

Where It’s From: Native to Europe, Asia and North America; historians aren’t sure where grapevines were first cultivated, but the Black Sea region is as likely a spot as any
Traditional Usages: Most famously for wine; raisins have also been valued for being nonperishable and easily transported
Modern Research Shows: Contains resveratrol, which promotes heart health by fighting inflammation, supporting healthy cholesterol levels and making blood less clot-prone; also mimics the effects of calorie restriction, which slows aging

Goji: TCM Celebrity

Where It’s From: Mostly grown in China; also known as wolfberry
Traditional Usages: In Traditional Chinese Medicine to enhance immunity, circulation and eyesight
Modern Research Shows: Contains an abundance of minerals, amino acids and antioxidant phytonutrients; studies suggest goji may help stave off age-related macular degeneration, erase fatigue, bolster immune function and limit cholesterol oxidation

Açaí: Antioxidant Superstar

Where It’s From: Central and South America
Traditional Usages: As a densely nutritious food; traditionally served with tapioca in northern Brazil
Modern Research Shows: Loaded with anthocyanins, achieving extremely high antioxidant activity; serves as a great source of fiber; ongoing research reveals potential anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing benefits

Mangosteen: Inflammation Easer—and More

Where It’s From: The South Pacific; now also grown in Hawaii and Central Africa, places which are warm enough to support this ultra-tropical plant
Traditional Usages: The “Queen of Fruits” is not only popular for its exquisite flavor but also as a remedy for dysentery, diarrhea and skin conditions
Modern Research Shows: Contains xanthones, a group of compounds possessing powerful antioxidant properties, along with numerous other phytonutrients; in studies mangosteen extract has reduced inflammatory reactions and reduced oxidation of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol; has also shown antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties.

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