(Health Secrets) Want an inexpensive whole food source that provides big antioxidant protection? Think about planting some aronia berry bushes this spring. Aronia berries, equally well known as chokeberries, are produced on easy to grow, low maintenance plants that add beauty to any landscape. Best of all, the berries produced by these native North American plants have one of the highest levels of anti-aging and disease fighting antioxidant protection of any food on the planet.
Antioxidants are critical factors for fighting aging and disease
When oxygen interacts with cells, oxidation is inevitable. Cells die and are replaced with fresh, new cells. It is a natural process that keeps us healthy. Although the body is designed to process oxygen very efficiently, a small percentage of cells get damaged in the oxidation process and turn into free radicals. They are “free” because they are missing a critical molecule that would keep them stable. To find it, they go on a rampage in the body looking to repair themselves, stealing molecules where they can. In this process, the DNA of other cells can be damaged, with aging and disease as the result.
Free radicals trigger a chain reaction. For example, when a free radical oxidizes a fatty acid, it changes that fatty acid into another free radical, which can then damage another fatty acid and so on. Eventually, the body’s natural free-radical defense system can be overwhelmed.
People living in the modern world have a much heavier oxidative burden than people living a few generations ago. They also have a greater awareness of what causes aging and disease, and realize the need for a natural antioxidant protection network in their anti aging arsenal. The result is an exploding demand for foods and supplements high in antioxidants that can support the body’s defense against free radicals.
Flavonoids are the biggest class of antioxidants. More than 5,000 flavonoids in various foods have been identified by scientists. Flavonoids and polyphenols (another class antioxidants) are major contributors to good health.
Two of the most effective and useful classes of flavonoids are anthocyanins and proanthocyanins found in fruits and berries. Anthocyanins give berries their dark rich colors, and the darker and richer the color is, the higher the anthocyanin content.
Study reveals the extraordinary antioxidant protection of aronia berries
In a ground breaking study from the USDA, several varieties of berries, including aronia berries, blackberries, blueberries, red currants, goose berries, and elder berries were evaluated to determine their anthocyanin concentrations.
Aronia berries had the highest total anthocyanin and proanthocyanin concentrations of all the varieties. Aronia berries also displayed the highest lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capabilities.
Aronia berries show a wealth of health benefits in recent studies
In another recent study, the antioxidant properties of anthocyanins, polyphenols and quercetin glycosides from aronia berries were tested against induced oxidative stress in human blood platelets. The aronia berry extract significantly inhibited platelet protein oxidation. It also caused a distinct reduction of platelet lipid peroxidation. Moreover the researchers observed that the extract reduced oxidative/nitrative stress in blood platelets from patients with breast cancer, showing it to be an important antioxidant for that group of people.
An animal model study at Fuji Women’s University showed that the antioxidant effects of aronia berry extract could treat acute gastric hemorrhagic lesions in rats, suggesting it might be an effective natural treatment for severe stomach problems in humans, including ulcers.
Although research into the health benefits of the aronia berry is still in its infancy, a publication, Chokeberry, A Clinical Perspective, by Dimitri Papadimitrious, Ph. D. has chronicled much of what has been done so far. He reports a trial that found a reduction in oxidative markers after administration of aronia berry juice (23 mg anthocyanins/100mL) to athletes after completion of strenuous exercise and after a 24 hour recovery period.
Another trial related to oxidative stress looked at pregnancies complicated with intra uterine growth retardation, a stress-promoting complication. Administration of aronia berry anthocyanins reduced oxidative markers compared to a group receiving a placebo. In a three month trial, researchers found that 7 ounces of aronia berry juice could significantly reduce glucose levels in subjects suffering from diabetes.
A study focusing on heart health evaluated the impact of aronia berry extract (255 mg/d) for cardiovascular support and reduction of risk markers under stress conditions such as heart attack. Researchers found aronia berry extract significantly reduced oxidative stress as evidenced by a reduction in inflammation and C-reactive protein level.
The role of the aronia berry in colon cancer prevention was also studied. Rats were fed an anthocyanin extract from either aronia berry or elderberry. The rats receiving aronia berry were found to have a reduction in multiple markers of colon cancer risk.
Potential benefits have been suggested for aronia berry against cardiovascular disease, gastric mucosal disorders, urinary tract disorders, and eye inflammation. However, this is only the beginning, and much more research is needed.
For the best in antioxidants, grow your own
The black aronia berry or chokeberry bush (Aronia melancarpa) grows to six feet or more in height and width. It is a rapid grower, reaching maturity in about four years. A nursery size bush can turn into an impressive large shrub in just a couple of years. It is a late bloomer, producing its white blossoms after the threat of frost has passed in May. The flowers are quite striking against the dark green of the leaves.
One mature aronia berry bush can produce over 38 pounds of fruit per season.
Being a widely seeded North American native, the aronia berry bush is extremely forgiving of growing conditions, and will tolerate swampiness or dryness and anything from an acid to a mildly alkaline growing medium. It can thrive in full sun or half shade, and is rarely troubled by insects or diseases. It is cold hardy across the U.S. and most of Canada, and can be planted or transplanted in any season with equal success.
The plants can be grown as a crop, used as a shrub, or planted as an attention grabbing specimen. An aronia berry bush makes an excellent backdrop for smaller shrubs and perennials. Aronia berry leaves produce spectacular color in the fall.
If you don’t have room for a bush that big, try one of the cultivars that grow to only 3-5 feet. Autumn Magic is a aronia berry cultivar promoted by British Columbia Botanical Garden. It has compact shiny leaves, and sets many excellent fruits that are a bit larger than the norm.
A quick way to expand your crop of aronia berry bushes is to slice off suckers (new plants cropping up from the root system of the older plant). Use a spade to make a sharp cut in the root that connects mother and baby. Then spade up the baby with its roots still encased in dirt, and move it to another location.
Aronia berries are versatile
Natives and early settlers used aronia berries extensively as medicine, food, and dye for cloth, but the aronia berry did not become popular for commercialization in the U.S. until recently.
The pea sized berries are harvested in autumn, and have a strong, stable natural color and a dry and somewhat sweet/sour flavor, making them perfect for wine making. Fruit can be mechanically harvested with equipment similar to that used with blueberries.
Aronia juice has been gaining popularity, sold either alone or blended with other fruit juices such as apple or grape. Russians ferment aronia and apple juice to make red wine. Adding aronia juice improves the color, tannin level and high sugar content of grape wines.
The berries can be put through a juicer at home, and the juice can be stored in the refrigerator in tightly sealed jars for several days. or frozen. Drink it straight or blend it with other juices depending on what kind of taste is desired. The levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids are over five times greater in aronia juice than they are in cranberry juice, and the juice is rich in vitamins and minerals. Nothing else can provide bioavailable nutrients that can compare with those from fresh juiced fruits.
The tart taste of the berries (why they’re often called chokeberries comes from their high levels of tannins. Freezing the berries reduces the tannin content and increases the sweetness, making their taste more like that of the blackberry.
Aroniaberries are starting to get some PR
One of the nurseries that specializes in aronia berry bushes held a festival a few years ago to spread the word about this healthful fruit. Dawn Sagario, reporter for the Des Moines Register, reported a huge crowd with many people who couldn’t get enough of the berries, which were seen as healthy, energizing, and good for the body and the spirit.
Aronia products exhibited included jelly, juice, cayenne pepper sauce, syrup, barbecue sauce, and salsa, which sold out quickly. A commercial horticulturist attending the fair commented that the biggest interest seems to be in the health food field.
Owners of this nursery chose aronia over grapes for their orchard several years ago. Their organic bushes have thrived with low maintenance. The shrubs grew so well that they have been adding a couple of thousand more plants every year. They report getting as much as 40 pounds of berries from mature plants, and about 20 pounds from younger ones. They say it takes four years before you really start to see large volumes of berries on the plants.
Much of their harvest goes to winemaking, where the berries add body and structure along with nutrients. According to them, a landowner can grow all the aronia berries he could ever use. As a crop, aroni berries can bring in about $10,000 an acre from mature plants.
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Published with permission from Alignlife. Original article link is here.