When it comes to exploring the benefits of tropical fruits, there’s a new player in town. Plant experts call it Myrciaria dubia, and those who farm it in Brazil and Peru call the little red fruits camu camu. For nutritionists in Japan, Italy, and increasingly the United States, it’s fast becoming a superfood which offers both an abundance of naturally-available vitamin C and a powerful range of antioxidant compounds which might bring significant health benefits.1
Camu camu fruit looks like a cross between a small plum and a large grape. Camu berries grow in clusters and are traditionally harvested by canoe. More recently, powdered camu camu fruit products have appeared in the US, and in a similar way to lepidium meyenii (Peruvian ginseng), some nutritionists have suggested that we include camu camu in our diets.
Vitamin C And Other Antioxidants: What Are The Overall Health Benefits Of Camu Camu Fruit?
Most studies into camu camu focus on its astonishing vitamin C content, as we’ll discuss shortly. The fruit also offers much-discussed antioxidant effects, which are a potential weapon against free radicals. Found in polluted air, among other sources, these atoms are dangerous because they lack an electron, and so spend their short (several milliseconds) lives scavenging to find one. During their search, they can damage our lungs, attack fatty tissues and proteins, and even affect our DNA itself, creating yet more free radicals in the process.2,3
They’re not all bad though – free radicals occur naturally and in the right amounts, they can help us fight disease. But when they proliferate and our bodily defenses can’t produce enough antioxidants to redress the balance, we suffer oxidative stress. Linked to a range of physical problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders, oxidative stress is apparently rooted in poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to UV light and to the aforementioned pollution, and the use of alcohol and tobacco.4,5 The benefits of antioxidants are hard to measure, but nutritionists have been searching for a powerful antioxidant, either in a food source or in dietary supplements, which is stable enough to donate an electron, thereby neutralizing free radicals.6,7With its powerful antioxidant properties, camu camu may be able to help. Let’s take a detailed look at this powerful little fruit and the health benefits it might bring.
Per unit weight, camu camu contains 60 times the vitamin C of oranges and 200 times the vitamin C of bananas, making it the second most abundant source of ascorbic acid in the natural world (behind the Australian green plum). Vitamin C supports the immune system and is required for the formation of collagen, which is important for healthy skin, bones, and muscles.8
Fresh or powdered camu camu provides plentiful manganese, which is important for enzyme activation.9 It also contains useful amounts of:
- Copper (necessary for energy production, neurotransmission, and producing hemoglobin)
- Iron (critical for red blood cell health and muscle development)
- Magnesium (important for cardiovascular health and strong bones)
- Calcium (crucial for healthy bones, muscles, and nerves)
- Potassium (important for muscle, metabolism, and organ health)
- Zinc (plays an important role in the immune system and regulation of blood sugar)10
Valine is an amino acid that is important for the proper function of the nervous system.11 It also aids muscle health, as does leucine, which additionally supports growth hormone production.12 Serine breaks down protein bonds, helps us digest fats, and it supports the immune system. These three amino acids are all found in camu camu, and together can support your overall health in a variety of ways.13
These compounds help give fruits and vegetables their color and act as antioxidants. Found in camu camu, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside might help to support gut microbiota health, according to a study.14
Gallic acid is another potent antioxidant found in camu camu.15
Also found in cranberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and grapes, ellagic acid is another antioxidant with the potential to support your health.16
The fruit also offers a generous amount of fiber, which helps digestive processes. There’s also some evidence that camu camu might help support healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range.17,18,19
You Can Find This Super Healthy Food In Various Forms: Fresh Camu Camu Vs Camu Fruit Powders
Due to the unbearably tart taste of the berry, camu camu fruit juice is not produced or sold. But because all three main parts of the fruit – seeds, pulp and skin – convey its nutritional content, every form is useful.20 By far the most available form is a powder, usually sold in 3-4oz containers.
Ways To Consume This Healthy Fruit: How To Use Camu Camu In Your Food and Drinks
Camu camu powder can be used in these ways:
- Mixed into a bowl of yogurt (1-2 tsp, plus berries)
- Added to a smoothie
- Stirred into tea (2 tsp per cup)
- Mixed into porridge oats (1-2 tsp, with fruit and nuts)21,22
Give Camu Camu A Try
Unfortunately, scientific data is created at a slower rate than the growth of consumer enthusiasm, and although results are encouraging, more studies are needed. Camu camu seems exceptional, but antioxidants and vitamins are also available elsewhere, including through cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries, while citrus, peppers, and broccoli all provide plentiful vitamin C.
In the meantime, it seems that moderate daily use of camu camu powder is safe, and might offer significant health benefits – especially for those struggling with free radical proliferation or vitamin deficiency – as part of a healthy, balanced diet.