Health Benefits of Camu-Camu (A Brazilian Superfood)
Camu-camu is the edible fruit of the Mycaria dubia tree, a small bushy tree that grows on riversides in Brazil and Peru. In recent years, this tart little fruit has received a lot of attention from health conscious consumers looking to add more superfoods to their diets. In countries like the US and UK, camu-camu fruit is typically sold in health food stores in dried, powdered form (occasionally you may also find juice blends containing this exotic superfruit). Those who are convinced of the health benefits of the camu-camu fruit use dried camu-camu powder to improve the nutritional profile of smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and homemade energy bars.
So, what are some of the potential health-protecting effects of camu-camu? Let's find out.
Camu-Camu Provides Ellagic Acid, an Anti-Cancer Compound
The camu-camu fruit belongs to the Myrtaceae family of plants, and like many other exotic fruits in this family, camu-camu has been shown to contain high amounts of ellagic acid, although it does not contain quite as much ellagic acid as its cousin, the Jabuticaba fruit that also grows in Brazil. If you're a regular visitor to HealWithFood.org, you may have already heard of ellagic acid, a powerful natural compound that has been shown to neutralize cancer-causing substances, boost the immune system, and promote apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancerous cells in test tubes. Now that, of course, does not prove that camu-camu has anti-cancer activity in humans, but it certainly makes camu-camu stand out as an interesting subject for future studies.
Camu-Camu Contains 40 Times as Much Vitamin C as Oranges
There are many health claims about camu-camu that have not been proven, but one thing we know for sure: this much-touted Brazilian superfood is right there on top of the list of the best food sources of vitamin C. It has been shown to contain even more vitamin C than acerola, acai berries, guava, and cloudberries, all of which are known for their extremely high vitamin C levels.
So, how much vitamin C does camu-camu provide? According to the camu-camu nutrition facts chart, the vitamin C levels in fresh camu-camu have been shown to range from about 1,882 milligrams to about 2,280 milligrams per 100 grams. That's about 40 times the amount of vitamin C found in regular oranges and nearly 80 times the amount found in mandarin oranges! As you may know, vitamin C helps keep your immune system, skin, bones, and teeth strong and healthy. This versatile nutrient has also been shown to act as a natural anti-histamine, and may therefore help alleviate certain types of allergic reactions.
See Also: 10 Diet Tips for Common Cold Prevention
Antioxidant Properties Proven by Research
In addition to the health benefits described above, vitamin C can act as an antioxidant. As you may know, antioxidants help protect your body against cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals, in turn, are unstable atoms that are generated when your body exposed to things like air pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, drugs, and pesticides. Free radicals also occur as by-products of normal metabolic processes. If your diet does not contain enough antioxidants, free radicals may increase your risk of degenerative diseases and speed up aging in general.
Now, here's the thing: the antioxidant properties of camu-camu cannot be attributed solely to the vitamin C it contains. A group of researchers from Japan recruited 20 male smokers and randomly assigned each man to one of two groups: The first group were instructed to consume 70 milligrams of 100% camu-camu juice daily, corresponding to 1,050 milligrams of vitamin C. The second group were asked to take vitamin tablets containing an equal amount of vitamin C.
The results were surprising: the men in the vitamin C supplement group did not show an improvement in their oxidative stress levels at the dose used in this 7-day trial. By contrast, the men in the camu-camu group showed a significant drop in several markers of oxidative stress. Not only do these results imply that camu-camu has strong antioxidant properties, they also suggest that natural compounds other than vitamin C may be largely responsible for the antioxidant properties of camu-camu.
Camu-Camu – Good for Your Eyes?
You may have already heard that bilberries are good for your eyes thanks to the anthocyanins they contain. But did you know that there are also other foods that are also rich in these powerful flavonoids that may help protect your eyes from impaired night vision and macular degeneration? Camu-camu, for example, has been shown to contain anthocyanins along with other flavonoids. In addition, camu-camu contains carotenoids such as lutein. Sometimes called "the eye vitamin", lutein is often used as a preventive treatment for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and other diseases affecting the eyes.
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2. Akter, M.S. et al. (2011), Nutritional compositions and health promoting phytochemicals of camu-camu (myrciaria dubia) fruit: A review, Food Research International, 44(7), 1728-1732.
3. USDA's Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. C. Azevedo-Meleiro and D. Rodriguez-Amaya (2004). Confirmation of the identity of the carotenoids of tropical fruits by HPLC-DAD and HPLC-MS. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 17, 385-396.
5. T. Inoue et al (2008). Tropical fruit camu-camu (Myrciaria dubia) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Journal of Cardiology, 52(2), 127-132.