Exotic Superfruits: Acai, Mangosteen, Goji and More! by Ellen Kamhi, RN, Ph.D.

     Consuming fruits has always been one of the mainstays of healthy living. In recent years, more fruits have become commercially available, which have previously been used only in the local area where they grow. Many of these "exotic" fruits have been touted to be "SuperFruits" although in their native land they are simply recognized as delicious and healthy foods. As these 'new' fruits are introduced, they are often presented with a great deal of marketing support and fanfare, to bring awareness of their traditional use to the US marketplace. In addition, current scientific studies are being performed which are elucidating the mechanism of action of how these fruits support health and wellness.

     As a natural health care practitioner since 1964, I have always honored both traditional knowledge and scientific verification. If you decide to try some of these newly introduced Super Fruits, such as Acai, Mangosteen, Goji berry, Red Coffee fruit or the more well-recognized Pomegranate, review the labels of the products that you choose. If you are choosing a liquid juice product, it should be in amber glass bottles, to avoid plastic leaching into the product. Check the label for any added sweeteners or preservatives. Some brands add artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame. Also, potassium benzoate is sometimes added as a preservative. This potential toxin releases benzene, a carcinogen, when in the presence of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants exactly what these juices are touted to be high in!

     The following is a brief description of several of the new "SuperFruits" along with modern scientific evidence of how they work:

     Acai Berry has been used for thousands of years by the natives of the Brazilian rain forests. They believe that acai has healing powers. Modern science has uncovered a vast storehouse of nutrients in the acai berry, including a high concentration of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E, along with Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. The May 2006 issue of the Journal Of Agricultural Food Chemistry identifies specific phenolic compounds in Acai, as well as their ability to scavenge free radicals which destroy cell membranes.

     Mangosteen is the apple-size fruit of a tall tropical tree. In Asia, it is called "queen of the fruit" due to its delicious flavor and traditional medicinal use. It contains a wide range of antioxidants such as a polyhydroxy-xanthone derivative called mangostin. In volume 15 of Medical Principles and Practice, 2006, evidence is presented which shows both the antioxidant and neuroprotective effects of Mangosteen fruit.  

     Goji Berry also known as wolfberry, or Lycium, is a small raisin size red fruit that grows on a vine. Goji berries have been prized for their nutritional and healing value in traditional Asian medicine for countless generations. Science has isolated at least four unique polysaccharides, which are phytonutrient compounds that "amplify signals" between cells, and improve immune defense. In the June 2006 issue of the International Journal Of Molecular Medicine, there's an explanation of how Goji protects cells by increasing the energy available to the endoplasmic reticulum the "energy engine" of cells.

     Pomegranate is the fruit of trees that grow in the Middle East, and has been traditionally recognized in ancient cultures to be a source of longevity and strength. Pomegranate juice is a very rich source of Vitamin C, potassium, polyphenols and a host of other beneficial antioxidants. Recent research supports the long-held belief that pomegranate juice is healthy for the heart.  In the Feb 2006 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, there is a description of components found in pomegranate, ellagitannins, and punicalagin, which suppress inflammatory cell signaling in colon cancer cells. Another article in the Harvard Men's Health Watch in April 2007 is called "Pomegranates for the Prostate and the Heart: Seeds of Hope!"

     Red Coffee Berry is the bright red fruit that grows on coffee plants, which contains the coffee bean. It has traditionally been discarded, while the bean is processed into coffee. However, the red fruit is high in beneficial antioxidants and other nutritional substances, which gives it one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values found in nature. In the April 2006 issue of Life Science, red coffee berry is shown to block free radical generation and protects cells from neurotoxicity.     

     Muscadine Grape (Vitis rotundifolia) is native to the southeastern United States and is found in the wild from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico. Muscadine Grapes have a high percentage of antioxidant compounds, such as resveratrol and anthocyanidins, with the ability to act as powerful free radical scavengers. Since Muscadine grapes grow wild, they are not sprayed with pesticides as are domestic grape varieties. The Nov 2005 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, verifies the anti-inflammatory properties of muscadine grapes. Since inflammation is closely linked to virtually all disease processes, anti-inflammatory foods are a great addition to the diet.

     Ellen Kamhi PhD RN, The Natural Nurse(r), can be heard on radio daily. She is the author of several books, including "Weight Loss, the Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide." Dr. Kamhi has been involved in natural health care for over 4 decades. She answers consumer questions at www.naturesanswer.com and has a private practice on Long Island. For more info, visit: www.naturalnurse.com or call 800-829-0918.