7 Best Benefits of Acerola

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The unique health benefits of acerola include its ability to manage diabetes, reduce signs of aging, improve heart health, increase circulation, reduce allergic reactions, stimulate the immune system, improve eye health, protect the skin, and improve mood.

What is Acerola?

Acerola is a shrub or small tree that bears a delicious cherry-like fruit, which is why you usually hear the term “acerola cherry” when referring to this fruit. Other common names include Barbados cherry and West Indian cherry, but the scientific designation of this tropical fruit is Malpighia emarginata. Native to Mexico, South America, and Central America, this fruit has been prized for thousands of years by various indigenous cultures. It is now widely exported throughout the world and is also cultivated in certain parts of the Indian subcontinent, as well as southern areas of the United States. [1]

In terms of culinary applications, acerola cherries have a distinct flavor and are eaten in much the same way as regular cherries, although they aren’t related. They are consumed either raw or in baked goods, candies, ice creams, jellies, jams, and frozen juice concentrates. There is some use of this fruit in the production of certain alcohols. The real benefit, however, comes from the rich mixture of nutrients and vitamins contained in the fruit, in addition to a wealth of antioxidants and one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in any fruit. [2]

A bowl of fresh red acerola cherries and leaves on a wooden table

Acerola is a small fruit which is one of the best sources of nutrients. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Acerola, (west indian cherry), raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]91.41
Energy 32
Energy [kJ]134
Protein [g]0.4
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.3
Ash [g]0.2
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]7.69
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.1
Calcium, Ca [mg]12
Iron, Fe [mg]0.2
Magnesium, Mg [mg]18
Phosphorus, P [mg]11
Potassium, K [mg]146
Sodium, Na [mg]7
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.1
Copper, Cu [mg]0.09
Selenium, Se [µg]0.6
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]1677.6
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.06
Niacin [mg]0.4
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.31
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.01
Folate, total [µg]14
Folate, food [µg]14
Folate, DFE [µg]14
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]38
Vitamin A, IU [IU]767
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.07
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.05
18:0 [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.08
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.08
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.09
18:2 [g]0.05
18:3 [g]0.04
Sources include : USDA [3]

Health Benefits of Acerola or Barbados Cherry

Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of Acerola.

Manages Diabetes

A research study by the Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry journal has shown that the antioxidants found in acerola cherries can actually help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. This regulation of insulin and glucose is a crucial means of preventing blood sugar spikes and drops, for people with diabetes. [4]

Anticancer Potential

Acerola cherries contain a diverse mix of antioxidants, including carotenoids and bioflavonoids, both of which neutralize the effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the damaging byproducts of cellular metabolism that cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous or unhealthy ones, while also exacerbating other serious diseases. Lab studies indicate a positive link between acerola extracts and regulation of abnormal cell growth at certain stages of lung tumor. [5]

Anti-aging Properties

The high level of antioxidants found in acerola cherries is supposed to be good for cleansing the body of dangerous toxins and substances that cause its breakdown. The carotenoids in acerola cherry help protect your eye health and boost the health of your skin, while bioflavonoids help boost your cognitive function and prevent the onset of other age-related diseases. [6]

Boosts Immunity

Acerola cherries have one of the highest contents of vitamin C, topped only by camu camu. For people who want to give a quick boost to their immune system, pop some acerola cherries into your weekly diet and see how much better you’ll feel! Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are the body’s primary line of defense against foreign agents and pathogens. Furthermore, vitamin C is a crucial component of collagen, which means that your body can heal itself faster by repairing cells, blood vessels, organs, and tissues from illness or injury. [7]

Improves Metabolism

To keep your body running at a normal pace, you need to regulate your metabolism. One of the most important groups of vitamins which help do that is the vitamin B family. These vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, help regulate your hormonal and metabolic processes to ensure that your body runs smoothly. [8]

Improves Heart Health

As a rich source of potassium, acerola cherry can also boost heart health. Potassium is a vasodilator, so it helps relieve strain on the cardiovascular system by dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow, thereby reducing blood pressure. This can lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis and can also prevent heart attack and stroke. The rich variety of antioxidants also helps keep the cardiovascular system clear of excess cholesterol and free radicals causing oxidative stress. [9]

Aids in Digestion

Although acerola cherries don’t have as much fiber as many other fruits, it is still present in a significant amount and can definitely help boost your digestive health. Dietary fiber promotes smooth passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract, which relieves constipation, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and more serious issues like gastric ulcers. Furthermore, dietary fiber even helps clear out the dangerous cholesterol from the heart. [10]

Ways to Consume Acerola

You can have acerola cherry or the leaves of the plant for its benefits. The cherries are sweet and fragrant and can be eaten raw or cooked. Also, here are a few ways to add acerola to your meals.

  • You can add the cherry to your salads and smoothies.
  • Add some acerola cherries to your juice for a sweet flavor.
  • If you like having yogurt, you can top it with some acerola.

Acerola or barbados cherry decomposes very fast, mostly within 4-5 days of harvest, which is why it is also available in supplement forms which include the following:

  • Acerola capsule
  • Acerola cherry powder
  • Acerola liquid extract

Word of Caution: Some people have reported adverse reactions to these cherries, including an upset stomach, sleeplessness, and insomnia. Too many acerola cherries can also cause diarrhea. The high level of vitamin C can be dangerous if you suffer from gout, as it can boost the levels of uric acid. Other than that, acerola cherries are not commonly known as an allergenic food.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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