Super Fruits: Can One A Day Keep the Doctor Away? (Part 2)

Last week, we looked at pomegranates and açaí as two of the leading members of the "super fruits" club. Remember that super fruits are touted as being a step above some of the "regular" fruits, such as oranges and apples, in terms of their antioxidant content. Let’s look at a few more this week.


Goji Berries:
Also known as wolfberries, goji berries are native to Tibet and China, where they grow on evergreen shrubs. While eaten fresh in China, they usually are found in dried form (they look like large red raisins) outside the country. Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for liver health, eyesight improvement, and enhanced circulation. Goji berries contain a large amount of antioxidants, and test-tube and animal studies have shown that the fruit extract can slow cancer growth and lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels. However, these results have not yet been confirmed in humans.

Goji berries may interact with anticoagulant drugs like warfarin (brand name Coumadin and others) and increase the risk of bleeding. Dried berries can be found in natural-foods and Chinese markets. Goji berry juice, also found in health-food stores and on the Internet, can cost upwards of $35 for a one-liter bottle.

No stranger to the Internet either, the noni fruit is another darling of marketers. Noni fruit is a green, lumpy-looking, pear-sized fruit that grows in Asia and the Pacific Islands (including Hawaii). People from Asia and the Pacific Islands have long used noni for many medicinal purposes, including treating constipation, asthma, dysentery, and lumbago. The fruit itself doesn’t smell or taste too appealing: Some describe it as tasting like rotten cheese and smelling like vomit(!). Noni was introduced to the United States in the 1990s by a company called Tahitian Noni International, which marketed the fruit as a dietary supplement. Today, noni juice is another type of supplement to hit the market. Companies that sell noni juice use testimonials from people who claim it can treat or cure depression, hemorrhoids, cancer, and even diabetes.

While noni fruit does contain a good amount of phytonutrients and is a good source of fiber, once again, there are relatively few human studies supporting any of its purported health claims. If you have any interest in trying the juice (the fruit itself is tricky to find unless you live in Hawaii), again, be prepared to pay at least $20 for a small bottle. (But save your money if you’re hoping to cure your diabetes with noni).

Mangosteen is a fruit native to Asia and the South Pacific. People in these regions have been using mangosteen, a fruit the size of a peach with a dark purple skin and white flesh that is shaped like a clementine, to treat diarrhea and eczema. Mangosteen contains antioxidants called xanthones, extracted from the rind of the fruit. There’s some evidence that xanthones have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Not surprisingly, mangosteen juice has been widely hyped on the Internet and on “infomercials,” primarily by a company called XanGo, although other companies market mangosteen juice, too. According to XanGo, mangosteen juice can improve intestinal health and immune function, can help promote a healthy respiratory system, and can improve cartilage and joint function. However, most of the studies done with mangosteen have not involved humans. In fact, apparently only one study with people was done, back in the early 1900s, looking at how well mangosteen treated dysentery (it did pretty well, actually).

In the meantime, if your taste buds are yearning for a little adventure, be prepared to shell out some cash. Rumor has it that specialty produce stores in New York are selling fresh mangosteen fruits for $45 per pound. Mangosteen juice isn’t much cheaper; one Web site is selling a 33.8-ounce bottle of juice for $22.49.

So, are super fruits really that superior to other fruits? Time will tell. In the meantime, don’t overlook the health benefits of the good old standbys: apples, pears, oranges, blueberries…all of these can help keep you healthy without all the hype and without breaking the bank.

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  • shreeanant

    About fuits…lot os misconceptions in India..My perception is:

    1. Avoid Mangoes, Jack (available in India Southern parts), Banana..certain varieties.
    2. Take Pomegranate, Papaya,Orange, Apple,Pineapple, Guvva, Grapes in small quantity,
    3. Dry fruits are welcome like resains, dry grapes, almonds, dates, figs

    What extent this is correct ?

  • kt

    Just wondering if anyone has ever seen this before.

    My husband had surgery to replace his ACL on Aug. 16. All blood test before surgery showed all blood levels were normal. Had never had diabetes or anything. They did a sciatic block and his leg never completely woke up after surgery. He can’t feel and his leg aches at night and when sitting.

    A few weeks later, he started feeling very bad, I called the doctor to tell him my husband was very thirsty and could not see the tv very good. He had also lost 35 lbs. The doctor said not to worry it was the medication they had given him to help the nerve wake up.
    Later I went up bought a glucose testing kit and he was over 600. Now they are saying he is a type 1 diabete. He was very in shape, we eat very good (I am a acupuncturist), and we take very good care of ourselfs. Any thoughts?

  • acampbell

    Hi shreeanant,

    It’s always interesting to hear nutrition recommendations from other countries. Since most fruits offer some kind of health and nutrition benefit, we tend to not recommend avoiding any particular fruit. In fact, the more variety, the better. However, fruit contains carbohydrate, which, of course, impacts blood glucose levels. The key, then, is to control portions of whatever kind of fruit you choose to eat. Also, dried fruit is quite concentrated in carbohydrate. A serving of raisins is 2 tablespoons, and a serving of dates is 3 dates – not very much!

  • acampbell

    Hi kt,

    It sounds like your husband had some of the classic symptoms of diabetes – weight loss, extreme thirst, blurry vision. Hopefully his doctor did a blood test to diagnose diabetes. (Diabetes isn’t diagnosed with a home blood glucose meter). Type 1 diabetes is considered to be an autoimmune conditition and must be treated with insulin; this means that, while he’s to be commended on a healthy lifestyle, eating and physical activity don’t play a role in the onset of this type of diabetes. However, we know that weight control, a healthy eating plan, and regular physical activity can prevent type 2 diabetes. What’s most important now is to confirm the type of diabetes that your husband has (if you haven’t already done so)to optimize his treatment plan, and to have your husband work with a diabetes educator and a dietitian to learn how to best manage his condition.

  • kt

    You are right you can’t diagnose diabetes with a blood glucose meter, but I am very thankful that we thought to go buy one since the doctors were not concerned by his symptoms.

    Yes, we have gotten him in to see a specialist and have gone to classes and he is on insulin.

    What we were wondering about is how diabetes began right after all the problems with surgery. He has no diabetes in his family. He has had yearly blood work and no signs of diabetes. We are passed the diagnoses stage we just are still trying to understand everything that has happened to him in the last 6 weeks.

  • acampbell

    It’s likely that the physiological stress of the surgery accelerated the onset of your husband’s diabetes. It’s not uncommon for people to report that their Type 1 diabetes appeared soon after an illness or surgical procedure. And, it may be of interest to you and other readers that the median age range for Type 1 diabetes to appear is when someone is in his or her 30’s. There’s also only about a 15% chance that Type 1 diabetes runs in the family. Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes this type of diabetes, either.

  • cas18551

    what does anyone know about the consumtion of bitter melon and aloe vera to reduce glucose levels with people with diabetes 2

  • acampbell

    Hi cas18551,

    The fruit and the seeds of bitter melon, which is related to cantaloupe and honeydew melon, contains substances that are thought to lower blood glucose levels. Side effects include gastrointestinal upset and a risk for hemolytic anemia, a condition that causes headache, fever, abdominal pain, and coma. If bitter melon is taken with certain diabetes medicines, such as sulfonylureas or insulin, hypoglycemia can occur. No good long-term studies have prove that bitter melon is a safe and effective treatment for diabetes. It shouldn’t be used by pregnant or lactating women or children. It is, however, safe when eaten as a vegetable. Aloe vera juice or gel has been used to treat diabetes with some success, but again, the studies have been small and haven’t lasted long. There are few side effects, although diarrhea can occur if too much is ingested. As with all supplements, always check with your health-care provider before taking them, and be sure to let him know what you’re taking at each of your visits.

  • Vision Correction

    Whether it’s poor vision, diabetes, liver issues or any physical problem that our body suffers from we need to understand the concept of we are what we eat a bit better.

    Yes I agree with you that there are some great benefits in certain fruits , roots and berries; however there is no ‘silver bullet’, one needs to understand the if for example he/she would like to improve their vision with proper nutrition,
    taking a handful of berries and expecting a miracle wont be enough. it would be as if you were trying to cook a dinner with one burning match.

    the right dosage, proper vitamins and definitely right nutritional elements can and will help you get to your goals whether it is eyesight improvement or liver detonation.