Acerola is a tropical fruit native to Central America. It is getting an increasing amount of attention from consumers and health professionals alike, thanks to its high concentration of vitamin C, carotenoids and phenolic compounds. Because it has a very acidic taste, the fruit is not usually eaten fresh, but rather as an extract, in capsules or as a juice.

The vitamin C in acerola is a powerful antioxidant, which has been linked to the prevention of certain diseases (cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer), as well as delaying the signs of ageing. If you’d like to know more about this bright red fruit and its beneficial properties, read this article to find out more.

Key Facts

  • The best way to take acerola is in the form of an extract, juice, chewable tablets or capsules since the fresh fruit is too acidic.
  • There is a very high concentration of vitamin C in acerola supplements. As well as being an antioxidant, this vitamin is critical for collagen synthesis, energy metabolism and immune function.
  • Acerola also contains other antioxidants, polyphenols and carotenoids, which help neutralise the oxidising agents that cause cell damage. This is how the antioxidants in acerola help to prevent cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Ranking: The best acerola supplements on the Australian market

There are various acerola supplements you can add to your diet to take advantage of this fruit’s healthy properties. Acerola extracts and juices are very versatile and can be mixed with other foods, unlike the capsules and chewable tablets. Here are the best acerola supplements currently on the market:

No. 1: American Health Super Acerola Plus Chewable Wafers

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These chewable acerola tablets contain a high concentration of vitamin C, for a powerful boost to your immune system as well as antioxidants which protect against free radical damage and premature ageing of cells. This supplement from American Health has an award-winning formula with a popular taste with not only acerola fruit but also citrus bioflavonoids and rose hip.

Chewable tablets are arguably the easiest and most convenient way to take your acerola supplement – they can be easily taken with you to work, school or while travelling, do not spoil easily and have a pleasant taste. Being chewable, they are also ideal for children but be sure to seek medical advice before giving any supplement to your child.

No. 2: NOW Foods Now Acerola 4:1 Extract Powder

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You can also enjoy the benefits of acerola in powdered form, with a powdered acerola extract such as this one. This powdered extract from NOW Foods contains 160mg of vitamin C per 1 teaspoon serving. The powder boasts not only the immune boosting and anti-oxidant properties of acerola but also Ascorbic Acid, another excellent source of vitamin C.

The powder can be dissolved in any liquid or food. You could dissolve it into water and drink it almost like a juice. On the other hand, the powder is great mixed into smoothies or shakes, particularly citrus juice shakes for a real vitamin C boost.

No. 3: Biona Organic Pure Acerola Cherry Juice

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This pure acerola juice allows you to get the health benefits of acerola in probably the purest form available to those of us living outside of South and Central America, where the fruit is grown.

The juice is cold pressed to retain the original components of the fruit, including its high vitamin C concentration. This juice is organic and with no additives or artificial flavours, so it retains the original taste of the acerola fruit, that is slightly sour and acidic.

Shopping Guide: What you should know about acerola supplements

To enjoy the many benefits of acerola, you need to consume it properly. How much acerola should you have each day? Is it better to have the juice, extract or chewable tablet? Is acerola better than a traditional vitamin C supplement? In this section, we will answer these questions and many more.

The acerola fruit is rich in water, fibre, sugars, vitamins and minerals.
(Source: Somyot Pattana: 60466390/ 123rf.com)

What is acerola exactly?

Acerola is a tropical fruit native to the Yucatan Peninsula. The largest producer of acerola in the world in Brazil, but it is also grown in Central America and countries in the northern parts of South America. It is not common to see the fresh fruits in the supermarket because it goes bad very quickly after being harvested.

The acerola fruit is about the size of a cherry but not fully rounded, and with the flesh of the fruit divided into three “segments”. It has a stone on the inside ad its smooth skin varies in colour from green (immature), orange-red (intermediate maturity) to bright red (when ripe ).

What flavour does acerola have?

A fresh acerola fruit is bittersweet and leaves a feeling of roughness in your mouth. In its intermediate maturity, the fruit is too acidic to eat, contains little sugar and a lot of vitamin C. As it ripens, its taste becomes more pleasant because the level of sugar increases, but the vitamin C concentration drops significantly.

John StaughtonNutritionist

“As a rich source of potassium, acerola cherry can also boost heart health. Potassium is a vasodilator, so it helps relieve strain on the cardiovascular system by dilating the blood vessels and increasing blood flow, thereby reducing blood pressure.”

How do I eat this fruit?

The acerola fruit is often eaten in Brazil when ripe, as it can be brought straight to the market after harvesting. It is difficult to export the fresh fruit to other countries because it will spoil 2 to 4 days after harvesting, and its flavour, smell, texture and appearance deteriorates.

You can also take acerola supplements in the form of juice, capsules, chewable tablets or in a powdered extract. The acerola fruit can also be used to make jams, ice cream, spirits, jellies and compotes, but these products don’t have the same health benefits.

What nutrients does acerola contain?

Acerola is rich in fibre,  sugars, vitamins and minerals. A 100g serve of the fresh, ripe fruit is 92% water, has 32 calories, 7.7 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fibre and 1700 milligrams of vitamin C. It also has B1 and B2 vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.

When the fruit is at intermediate maturity and it is still very sour, its concentration of vitamin C can be up to 4830 mg per 100 grams.  This means that acerola, depending on its maturity, can have 10 to 100 times more vitamin C than an orange. Other valuable components found in this fruit include polyphenols and carotenoids.

Acerola is naturally free of gluten and lactose.
(Source: Getsaraporn Thammason: 83481078/ 123rf.com)

What health benefits does acerola have?

In countries which grow acerola, the fresh fruit is commonly eaten as part of a balanced diet and when trying to lose weight. Acerola supplements (extracts, juice and capsules) have a range of health benefits, including these key advantages:

  • Antioxidant protection from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules which can “oxidise” cells and cause disease or premature ageing. Conditions associated with oxidative stress include: atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue, cancer and certain eye, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Adequate vitamin C for smokers and recent ex-smokers, who need higher levels of this nutrient than people who don’t smoke.
  • Prevention of macular degeneration associated with age, thanks to high levels of beta-carotene (provitamin A) and lutein. This disease is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
  • Antihyperglycemic effect, that is, prevents high blood glucose levels. This is particularly important for diabetics.
  • Protection of the skin against free radicals and ultraviolet radiation which can cause wrinkles. Additionally, acerola and its supplements stimulate the production of collagen, a protein responsible for keeping skin firm and smooth.
  • Improved mood and emotional wellbeing, since vitamin C plays a key role in norepinephrine production.
  • Stronger immune system and antimicrobial action against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
  • Prevention of various types of cancer (breast, lung) and tumour fighting activity, thanks to the anthocyanin found in acerola.
  • Increased absorption of iron present in green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, egg yolk and other foods. Helps to prevent anaemia caused by iron deficiency.

Why is the vitamin C in acerola so important?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient at all stages of life. Acerola and its supplements are an excellent source of this vitamin because they easily meet the daily requirements of both adults and children.  Some of the main functions of vitamin C in the body are:

  • It increases the absorption of non-heme iron, that is, the iron found in sources of iron other than meat.
  • It is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the immune system.
  • It reduces cold and flu symptoms and speeds up recovery times.
  • It facilitates energy metabolism, that is, it lets the body access the energy found in food.
  • Stimulates collagen production in the skin, tendons, joints and bones.
  • Acts as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals.
  • Assists with the synthesis of mood-related neurotransmitters.

Which antioxidants are found in acerola?

Acerola is a real cocktail of antioxidants thanks to its concentrations of vitamin C, phenolic compounds (flavonoids, anthocyanins and phenolic acids) and their carotenoids (beta carotene and lutein). All these components contribute to delaying the ageing process and to the prevention of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, ocular conditions and cancer.

This supplement is recommended for adults who want to strengthen their immune system and receive an extra boost of anti-oxidants.
(Source: Supakorn Rovijit: 78551558/ 123rf.com)

What types of acerola supplements exist and which is the right one for me?

There are 3 main types of acerola supplements: tablets (most of them chewable), juices and powdered extracts. All of them are excellent sources of vitamin C, and have distinct qualities. The main characteristics of the different types of acerola supplements are:

  • Tablets: are made from acerola extract combined with gelatin and binding agents, to create a capsule or tablet. Chewable tablets are sometimes flavoured with other natural ingredients such as pineapple or citrus.
  • Powdered extract: made by cold drying (freezing) the acerola fruit, removing most of the moisture, and creating a dry mass which is crushed into a powder. It has a natural acerola flavour but more concentrated. It can be mixed with either liquids or foods in order to consume it.
  • Juice: the juice is extracted by cold pressing the fruit in order to retain the vitamin C, which is thermosensitive and is destroyed at high temperatures. It has the characteristic acerola flavour. It can be taken on its own or mixed into a shake.
Features Tablets Powder Juice
Flavour They may have neutral or natural acerola taste or be flavoured with other ingredients (eg. citrus) Intense flavour of acerola. Pleasant, sweet and sour taste, typical of acerola.
Form of consumption On their own. You can take the capsules which have a neutral taste with water. However, most are flavoured and are chewable Mixed with water, milk, yoghurt, vegetable juice or smoothies. On its own. Doesn’t need to be mixed or diluted with water.
Amount of processing Moderate. The extract needs to be mixed with other ingredients in order to make it into a capsule or tablet. Low Low
Recommended dose/serving 1 or 2 tablets a day   3 to 5 grams daily 50 to 100 mL 
Amount of vitamin C per serving 500 mg per tablet or capsule on average. 438 to 730 mg. 800 to 1600 mg.

What is the recommended dose of acerola supplements?

For capsules and tablets, the recommended dose is 1 or 2 tablets per day. You should have around 50 to 100 mL daily of acerola juice, or 3 to 5 grams (one half to one teaspoon) of the powder.

What is the difference between acerola supplements and traditional vitamin C supplements?

Acerola and standard vitamin C supplements have many of the same health benefits, as this nutrient is really the star component of the fruit. In fact, this fruit is often used and a primary ingredient in the product of natural vitamin C supplements.

The differences between acerola and pure vitamin C supplements lies in the anthocyanins and carotenoids found in the fruit. The combination of nutrients in acerola have additional benefits not found in vitamin C supplements, including antihyperglycemic and antimicrobial properties, as well as preventing macular degeneration.

Benefits Acerola supplements Vitamin C supplements
Antioxidant Yes Yes
Antihyperglycemic Yes No
Strengthens the immune system Yes Yes
Prevents macular degeneration associated with age Yes No
Stimulates collagen production Yes Yes
Antimicrobial Yes No

Can children have acerola?

Children are allowed to have acerola supplements from 4 years old. However, when it comes to tablets and capsules, they should have the concentration of acerola which is suitable for children. Of course, you should always consult with your child’s doctor before giving them any kind of supplement.

Celeste Robb-NicholsonDoctor and Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

“Vitamin C is water-soluble, so any excess is usually excreted in the urine rather than stored in the body. It’s safe in almost any amount from foods, and supplements in recommended amounts are also regarded as safe for most people.”.

Who can benefit from taking acerola supplements?

Acerola supplements are safe and there are products on the market of exceptional quality. However, before buying these superfood supplements, it is important to consider whether you really should be taking them. Those who will gain the most advantages from taking acerola supplements are:

  • Smokers and recent ex-smokers
  • Vegans and vegetarians suffering from iron deficiencies
  • People who have a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables, as fresh fruits and veggies are the main sources of vitamin C
  • People suffering from a cold or the flu
  • Diabetics (who don’t use insulin)
  • People with a pre-disposition for macular degeneration associated with age

What are the adverse effects of acerola?

As we always say, during childhood, pregnancy and while breastfeeding, any nutritional supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a medical professional. In the case of acerola, there are times when it is not advisable to take these supplements, which we will outline below:

  • Patients with chronic liver or kidney conditions. This does not necessarily mean they cannot take acerola supplements, but people with these conditions should consult with their doctor before taking any supplement
  • Latex allergies. There can be a reaction between the latex allergen and the acerola molecule.
  • Hemochromatosis, an illness characterised by the excessive accumulation of iron in the tissues and organs. As vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, acerola supplements aggravate this condition.
  • People who take phenothiazines, as vitamin C can limit their effects

Other than these exceptions, acerola supplements are generally safe, because vitamin C is hydrosoluble, meaning that any excess will be eliminated in the urine. For this reason, it is very rare to suffer an overdose of acerola. Excess vitamin C may cause diarrhoea, stomach pain and kidney stones.

Shopping Criteria

Although acerola products are generally safe, you should consider other factors when deciding which to buy. If you have any of the conditions in which acerola can help to improve your health or prevent illness, you should consider the following aspects:

  • Format
  • Flavour
  • Ease of consumption
  • Allergies
  • Production and processing conditions

Format

The easiest form of acerola supplement to take is the tablets. Some have to be swallowed with a sip of water, but the majority are chewable and are designed to be like eating a lolly. The juice is also easy to take, but be sure to store in the fridge after opening.

The powdered extract is perfect for people looking for a supplement which is 100% natural because it is produced by freeze-drying the acerola fruit and then crushing it into a fine powder. However, the drawback is that you need to mix it with some kind of liquid or food in order to take it.

It’s not common to see the fruit in supermarkets because it goes bad very quickly after harvest.
(Source: Getsaraporn Thammason: 78797318/ 123rf.com)

Flavour

The juice, along with the chewable tablets, has a subtle, pleasant taste. The powder, on the other hand, has an intense, acre flavour (it leaves a rough feeling in the mouth), although it becomes much more pleasant to take when added to shakes or smoothies with citrus, berries, pineapple or banana.

Ease of consumption

Although children can have acerola supplements, it’s vital to choose products which have an agreeable taste, have a suitable vitamin C concentration for their age (60 – 120 milligrams per tablet). You should also look for organic products because kids are more susceptible to toxins and additives than adults.

Allergies

Acerola is naturally lactose and gluten free. However, anyone with allergies or intolerances should carefully check the ingredients. It’s worth remembering that people with latex allergies shouldn’t have any product containing acerola.

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Although the vitamin C in acerola doesn’t prevent colds and flu, it does help to shorten the length of the illness.

Production and processing conditions

It’s recommendable to choose supplements which have been produced through sustainable farming practices, not only because of health concerns but also in order to care for the environment. Another factor to consider is the packaging, as it’s preferable to opt for products in recyclable packaging.

In the same way, it’s better to buy supplements without artificial colours, flavours or perfume. Because acerola is a fruit which quickly goes off, excessive additives could be used to hide changes to the original raw material.

Summary

Acerola is a fruit which is rich in vitamin C, phenolic compounds and carotenoid pigments. These key nutrients result in one of the best natural sources of antioxidants, with the ability to prevent illness and delay the process of ageing. It can be taken in the form of tablets, capsules, juice or powder.

Because vitamin C and acerola pigments (anthocyanins, beta carotene and lutein) play key roles in the body, these supplements are beneficial for both children and adults. Although they are safe, it is important not to exceed the recommended dose to avoid adverse effects.

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(Source of featured image: Somyot Pattana: 29697752/ 123rf.com)

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