Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

How super are 'superfruits' such as the goji berry and mangosteen?

We keep hearing about amazing health benefits of "superfruits." What's the appeal? Superfruits demand super prices — sometimes 20 times higher than "traditional" fruit.

Are they worth it? Here's a rundown from Barbara Quinn, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator in California:

Agave nectar is the juice from agave, a fruit native to Mexico. Agave nectar is a "natural sweetener," as are the juices of other fruits. Its benefit, say promoters, is that it is high in fructose, which is absorbed slowly into the body. Agave nectar thus has a low glycemic index, which means it causes lower rises in blood sugars. But it's worth realizing that the high fructose content of agave nectar is seen as a benefit while the same fructose in high-fructose corn syrup is viewed by some as the plague. In fact, agave juice is higher in fructose (85 percent) than apple or pear juice (66 percent) or high-fructose corn syrup (55 percent), according to food chemist Julie Miller-Jones.

Goji berries (pronounced go-gee) are delicate red-orange berries related to tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. A native fruit of China, goji berries are rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, potent antioxidants that help keep our body cells intact and healthy. And like other brightly colored fruits and vegetables, goji berries are said to rank high in "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity," or ORAC. This measurement was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quantify the antioxidant capacity of certain foods. Problem is, I couldn't find goji berries listed on the latest USDA ORAC list of foods.

Acai (ah-sigh-ee) is a small purple berry native to the Amazon rainforest. Acai berries are especially rich in vitamins and minerals and are reported to be extremely high in antioxidant properties that protect cells from oxidation damage. Because the acai berry is so delicate, it is mostly marketed as a juice.

Mangosteen is not related to the mango. It is a purple-skinned tropical fruit with a white pulp. It is the bright-colored skin of the mangosteen that contains most of its phytochemicals, natural plant substances with health benefits. Studies on animals show that mangosteen may help relieve inflammation, a condition related to chronic diseases like arthritis and heart disease.

So, are these foods really super foods? Or are they just other fruits in our arsenal of plant foods known to have beneficial effects on our health? Unfortunately, human research is lacking and anecdotal information is rampant.

If you can afford them, go for it. But locally grown, brightly pigmented produce is always the healthiest choice.

How super are 'superfruits' such as the goji berry and mangosteen? 09/01/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 2:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The winner of 'Survivor: Game Changers?' It has to be Jeff Probst


    But Tampa Bay fans are more interested in whether local lawyer and ex-Buccaneer Brad Culpepper came out on top. After winning five - count ‘em five - challenges Culpepper made probably the most serious error in taking Sarah Lacina. the 33-year-old police officer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to the finals with him.

  2. To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more


    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  4. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux


    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  5. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later


    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.