Adding fruit extracts to your smoothies is a quick, easy and affordable way to increase their nutritional value. We give you the low-down on ACEROLA, GUARANA and BAOBAB, three of our favourite smoothie boosters…
Acerola: Outstanding Source of Vitamin C
Acerola extract is derived from the fruit of a shrub or small tree (M. emarginata) native to South America, southern Mexico and Central America. The Acerola fruit is bright red and resembles a cherry (hence its common names of Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry, Puerto Rican cherry and Antilles cherry, among others). Traditionally, the fruits have been used as an astringent, as well as to treat dysentery, diarrhoea and liver disorders.
Acerola’s main claim to fame is the fruit’s incredibly high levels of vitamin C – 1 to 4.5 %, compared to a maximum of around 0.5% in an orange. And, as we all know, vitamin C is essential to a healthy diet (deficiency can lead to scurvy) and plays a key role in a strong immune system. However, unlike most animals, humans are unable to synthesize vitamin C independently and must obtain it from their diet.
Vitamin C is also an effective antioxidant – insufficient levels of antioxidants cause oxidative stress and may damage or kill cells. Other benefits of vitamin C may include protection against cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and ageing of the skin (wrinkling).
Acerola also contains fairly high levels of vitamin A (on par with carrots, for example), as well as a range of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1, B2 and B3, bioflavonoids, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Due to its high vitamin C content, speak to a doctor before using acerola if you are on oestrogen pills or regular medication for depression or blood clotting.
Sources: WedMD.com, Wikipedia.org, Drugs.com (Herbal Database), Nlm.nih.gov (Medline Plus Supplements)
Guarana: 100% Natural Source Of Caffeine
Guarana extract is derived from the seeds of a vine native to the Amazon Basin, and Brazil in particular. The seeds, which are extracted from the plant’s berries, contain about double the concentration of caffeine as that of coffee seeds (or beans). Guarana has been used for centuries by the Guarani, an indigenous people of the area, reportedly to increase physical endurance and stamina. The powder – created by grounding the shelled, dried (or roasted) seeds – is also used in both a herbal tea and bread. Today, South America gets most of its caffeine from guarana.
Like coffee, guarana is considered to improve mental performance and alertness. Many fans of guarana also attest to a sharpening of memory, though this claim deserves further research.
Although the active ingredient (caffeine) is the same as coffee, some believe guarana has a less intense and longer lasting effect due to its slower release into the bloodstream. There’s also some evidence that guarana, when combined with other supplements (like polyphenol compounds in green tea), may promote weight loss, although the reason remains unclear (one study suggests it may increase satiety; another proposes that it may assist in fat being burned more readily as fuel).
Due to its high caffeine content, guarana is not recommended for those on regular medications (like some antidepressants and sedatives), or for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Sources: WedMD.com, Wikipedia.org, Drugs.com (Herbal Database)
Baobab: The Mighty African Fruit
South Africans will be familiar with this iconic tree, the fruit of which has been used over time as both a source of water and food. The pulp, a naturally powdery substance, is often used for gruel, sour dough and as a beverage (when added to water). The leaves, bark, roots, pulp and seeds have also been used traditionally across Africa for immuno-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, insect repellent and pesticidal properties and in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery.1
Due to its high vitamin C content, the baobab fruit is considered a potent source of antioxidants. In a study in African Journal of Food Science (2011), for example, the fruit of the baobab was found to have a superior vitamin C content when compared to kiwis, apples, strawberries and oranges (for example, 280-300 mg/100 g versus 46 mg/100 g of vitamin C in oranges).2
Vitamin C, of course, is essential to a healthy diet and plays a key role in a strong immune system. Other benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and ageing of the skin (wrinkling).
Baobab fruit also contains higher levels of potassium and calcium than many fruits (including oranges, bananas, blueberries and apples), while several studies reveal the fruit to be rich in fibre – which can play a key role in balancing the intestinal flora.
Nlm.nih.gov (Medline Plus Supplements), as well as:
- Kamatou, G.P.P. et al. “An updated review of Adansonia digitata: A commercially important African tree.” South African Journal of Botany 77 (2011) 908–919. Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
- Kabore et al. "A review of baobab (Adansonia digitata) products: Effect of processing techniques, medicinal properties and uses.” African Journal of Food Science 5.16 (2011): 833-844.
Find the right smoothie booster for you. Learn more about ACAI, ALOE VERA and ROOIBOS smoothie boosters here.