Elderberry vs. Aronia (Chokeberry)
It’s no surprise that the most potent natural antioxidants on the planet, known for their extraordinary nutritional value, have seen extra interest during Covid-19 worldwide. Aronia berries and elderberries have been long-known, especially in Eastern Europe, to benefit the immune system during cold and flu season.
We stack up the top two most potent antioxidant foods for you to see how they stand up to the claims and which purple berry is going to pack the most prominent health punch.
Keep reading to find out.
Is Supplementing With Antioxidant Polyphenols Good For You?
Most people know by now that antioxidants have potent disease-fighting effects. Many are vitamins, many more are natural chemicals that come from plants.
They all have at least one thing in common: antioxidants help prevent damage from inflammatory triggers. Whether it’s at the front lines of fighting an infection or regulating the very expression of your genes to boost your antioxidant systems, you want to be staying on top of your polyphenol intake to stay healthy, in an out of flu season.
For example, cigarette smokers are exposed to high levels of “oxidative stress”. Cigarettes release toxins that create “free radicals”, tiny volatile molecules that act like a wrecking ball on your cells. The research for using antioxidants to minimize some of the oxidative damage caused by these free radicals is so strong that the U.S. government recommends smokers get an extra 35 mg daily of vitamin C, a fundamental antioxidant.
You may or may not be a smoker, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that most Americans are breathing in polluted air that’s not too different. Americans are eating nutrient-depleted processed foods, they’re not active enough, and the American’s are afflicted with chronic conditions at rates way higher than any other industrialized country.
All of these have their own way of causing oxidative stress. No wonder the new phrase “sitting is the new smoking” has popped up recently. Therefore, yes, you will benefit from a good source of antioxidants, but like with anything, one antioxidant is not equal to others.
Antioxidants and Immune System
Even if your health is top notch like a pro athlete, there are definitely times you want to be getting an extra supply of antioxidants. You can shore up your immune system with the right antioxidants when you’re at risk for getting an infection (read more on our multi-part series on boosting your immune system with diet, supplements, and nitric oxide: Stay In, Stay Healthy: What to Eat to Support Your Immune System PT 1.
Antioxidants and Exercise
You can help your body recover from workouts faster with the right antioxidants, but getting the right dose of the right antioxidants is key. Too much vitamin C and E ー commonly touted for their role in reducing soreness ー may actually prevent you from reaping the rewards of a hard workout. We dive deep into evidence-based reasons to supplement with vitamin C here.
Antioxidants and Chronic Inflammation
You may even be able to mitigate subclinical, chronic inflammation with the right antioxidants. Chronic inflammation seems to underlie most, if not all, chronic conditions. And considering how little whole foods, fruits, and vegetables are in a typical diet, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that antioxidant polyphenols may play a role here. It’s no wonder that decades of research has been showing the positive effects that polyphenols can have on cancer risk, autoimmunity, oxidative stress, inflammation, and many other disease states.
I’m sure you noticed the specificity here though. I’m not saying that any antioxidant under the sun is going to be the miracle cure for whatever ails you. We can, and will, do better than that. I want you to know that particular antioxidants have a wealth of research to support their use for certain applications.
Let’s take a look at the two most concentrated sources of antioxidants in whole foods currently known: aronia berry and elderberry, which is better?
Aronia Berry, aka. “Chokeberry”
Aronia berries get their nickname “chokeberry” for their astringent taste. Eaten raw, their mouth-puckering flavor may take some time to get used to. The good news is that their rather strong flavor is a good indicator for how potent of a source of polyphenol antioxidants they are.
Chokeberry is well known as a health food in European countries, and Americans are catching on. Compared to every other superfood out there, aronia berry has the most powerful antioxidant capacity of any natural food, it is a dense source of phenolic compounds with an extremely high content of anti-inflammatory anthocyanins and a rich source of vitamin C and natural nitrates as well. Aronia is the superfood of superfoods.
Aronia has been studied to:
- Aid nitric oxide synthesis and may potentially lower blood pressure, support smooth muscle (like your gut), and increase energy and performance in endurance activities
- Help regulate the neuroinflammatory processes associated with exercise.
- Support heart, blood, and cardiometabolic health (ie lower cholesterol and triglycerides)
- Have promising effects on inflammation in athletes
- Regulate the gut microbiome in a positive way
- Possibly protect against hepatic fibrosis
- Possibly repair ethanol-induced ulceration of the gut lining
- Effectively eliminates inflammation in an mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease
- The flavonoids and carotenoids may induce IL-17 and IL-22 to restore gut function in the setting of heightened permeability
Aronia berries are a concentrated source of unique antioxidants which in combination with natural nitrates become a natural energy powerhouse. Even the types of aronia berries that have the lowest levels of nitrates make ruby-red beets pale to a paltry pink. If you want to know more about nitrates, check out our two part series on the beneficial effects of natural nitrates: 5 Performance-Enhancing Benefits of Natural Nitrates.
And for all of the above reasons, this powerful fruit is part of Resync’s proprietary blends. You can also apply some of the most delicious, yet anti-inflammatory recipes to your day. Click here to get Resync Anti-inflammatory e-Book.
Though more well-known in the public, researchers are still learning about the health benefits of elderberry. You are probably most familiar with elderberries as an anti-viral anti-bacterial to prevent the flu and common cold. (Read more on boosting your immune system here: What To Eat To Support Your Immune System.)
The effects of Elderberry go far beyond seasonal use though. Elderberries have been researched for:
- Minimizing soreness and pain after exercise due to their polyphenol content
- Possibly lowering blood pressure and improving heart health
- Increasing white blood cells and promoting immune function
- Possibly acting as a diuretic
Besides this, elderberries have a long history of traditional use. Bug repellent, immune system booster, diuretic, and more. It seems like indigenous populations were ahead of the science in finding all the uses of this powerful fruit!
Superberries Under Scrutiny: Which Berry Should I Supplement With?
- Both aronia berry and elderberry are excellent sources of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and B-vitamins.
- Chokeberry beats elderberry in potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium.
- Both superfoods are great sources of nutrition for health, but aronia is clearly superior.
Worth remembering is the fact that these berries are not that sweet, actually quite the opposite. That’s why supplementing with certified extracts, not juices or powders made of juices (huge difference in nutritional value), might be a great option to deliver the nutritional value, without the sugar and tartness.
Keep in mind, fruit is chock full of anti-inflammatory polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. But if you juice them, you cut out the fiber, which is one of the most important ways to fight inflammation, balance the blood sugar response, and support your long term health. What’s worse is that you’re still getting all the sugar.
Other ways to extract the benefits from fruit are easily seen in the supplement aisle. You won’t have to look for long at the ingredients of many popular “natural antioxidant” supplements, to find “whole fruit concentrates”.
These evaporated fruit juices do just what the name says: they concentrate the antioxidants and they concentrate the sugar. Taking a pro-inflammatory along with your anti-inflammatory doesn’t sound like a very useful combination to me, and I believe you will agree.
Certified and standardized extracts capture either a specific antioxidant or a spectrum of them, and they do it without the sugar. Look for extracts that are standardized to guarantee a certain percentage of the active ingredient, otherwise you have no way to know if you’re getting 0.2% or 25% of the active ingredient you’re looking for.
After-all, instead of focusing on “which one”, perhaps we should take a more holistic approach here and optimize our intake of both.
- The majority of aronia’s antioxidants are classified as procyanidins, which have their own unique effects separate from the polyphenol and anthocyanin content.
- Elderberries on the other hand are highest in their anthocyanin content. I might even suggest adding to the mix the unique anthocyanins in wild blueberries.
It makes sense that getting a wide spectrum of diverse polyphenols might be a great way to get the best of both worlds. And that’s just what Resync is about to do!
In our soon-to-be-released in September new Resync Collagen blend, we pair the benefits of aronia and elderberry antioxidants for a super-blend way to up your performance, energy, vitality, and connective tissue health.
You should also know that we are about to release a new e-book on supporting the health of every layer of your body, from the most superficial one, skin to the deepest one, your bone. And here is a quick peek to one of the 40 science based recipes, our Buckwheat Collagen Muffins
Follow us on social media to be the first to know when our new products are released, I don’t think you’re going to want to miss it!
If you liked this blog you might also enjoy some of our other articles:
- Best Ways to Boost Your Mitochondria For Energy
- Key Reasons Why You Should Consume Aroniaberry
- Nitric Oxide And Your Immune System
- What To Eat To Support Your Immune System
- 6 Healthy Benefits Of Nitric Oxide From Natural Nitrates
- See Why Resync might be right for you!
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Wishing you the best in your health,
The Resync Team
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Written by registered dietitian, Detrick Snyder, MPH, RDN. Updated 09/05/2020.
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