Camu Camu is a plant that grows naturally in South America and offers fruits with remarkable health benefits. Specifically, camu camu is abundant in vitamin C. To put it into perspective, 100 grams of this fresh fruit contains about 50 times more vitamin C than an orange. This places Camu Camu as the second-highest fruit globally in terms of vitamin C content. Yet, its benefits extend beyond vitamin C; this exotic fruit is also abundant in antioxidants and other valuable nutrients.
Let’s delve deeper into its unique properties.
What is Camu Camu?
Camu Camu is a small, sour berry that grows on a shrub native to the Amazon rainforest in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela.
The scientific name of the plant is Myrciaria dubia. The fruit is known for its exceptionally high vitamin C content, which is significantly higher than that of many other fruits.
Camu Camu has gained attention for its potential health benefits, including its antioxidant properties and immune system support due to its vitamin C content. In addition to vitamin C, camu camu contains other nutrients such as antioxidants, amino acids, and minerals.
The fruit is often used in powdered form or as an ingredient in dietary supplements, beverages, and other health products. Some people also consume it as a traditional food in the regions where it grows.
Cultivating Camu Camu
This shrub naturally thrives in the western part of South America, specifically in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Venezuela. It belongs to the humid tropics and favors fertile, deep, and humus-rich soil, with a notable preference for alluvial areas. You can find it growing wild along the Amazon River and the Ucayali rivers.
Growing Camu camu is relatively straightforward, particularly in specific conditions. It thrives best in warm, humid, tropical climates but also adapts well to subtropical conditions, withstanding temperatures slightly above freezing. The plant has a high demand for water and shows exceptional tolerance to flooding, enduring up to 4-5 months with roots and most aerial parts immersed in water.
Propagation occurs through seeds, and the tree begins fruiting once the stem reaches a circumference of 2 cm. On average, wild trees yield around 12 kg of fruit. With suggested planting densities ranging from 600 to 1100 trees per hectare, it’s possible to harvest approximately 12-13 tons of fruit.
Characteristics of Camu Camu berries
This plant produces edible fruits similar to cherries, red/purple in color and with a rather sour taste, considered among the richest natural source of vitamin C in the world.
For centuries, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon, considering it a highly nutritious food, have consumed it in the form of a drink, but also dried and reduced to powder. Due to its tonic-invigorating properties, they use it as a useful remedy against fatigue and pain in case of trauma, as well as a traditional remedy for the treatment of various problems.
The berries were in fact also used as a painkiller for the treatment of infections, and as a tool capable of preserving and guaranteeing long life.
Properties of Camu Camu
Camu camu is renowned for its impressive array of properties, making it a sought-after fruit for its potential health benefits. Here are some notable properties of this tropical fruit:
- High Vitamin C Content: Camu camu is celebrated for its exceptionally high vitamin C content. In fact, it contains significantly more vitamin C than many other fruits, including oranges. Vitamin C is crucial for immune system support, skin health, and overall well-being.
- Antioxidant Rich: In addition to vitamin C, it is rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids and ellagic acid. Antioxidants help combat oxidative stress in the body, which is associated with various health issues and aging.
- Nutrient Density: This fruit is a nutrient-dense fruit, providing a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Apart from vitamin C, it contains vitamins like vitamin A, B vitamins (including B1, B2, and B3), and minerals like potassium and iron.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Some studies suggest that camu camu may possess anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial for reducing inflammation in the body.
- Support for Collagen Formation: The high vitamin C content in these berries is vital for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that plays a key role in maintaining skin elasticity, joint health, and overall structural integrity.
- Adaptogen Qualities: Camu camu is sometimes considered an adaptogen, which means it may help the body adapt to stress and promote overall resilience.
- Potential Antiviral Properties: Some research has explored the antiviral properties of camu camu, suggesting its potential in inhibiting the replication of certain viruses.
- Gastrointestinal Health: The fruit contains dietary fiber, which can contribute to digestive health by supporting regular bowel movements.
It’s important to note that while camu camu shows promise in various aspects of health, further research is needed to fully understand the optimal ways to incorporate it into a balanced diet.
Calories and Nutritional Values
100 grams of camu camu provide 306 kCal distributed as follows:
- Carbohydrates: 54.11 g
- Protein: 6.8 g
- Fat: 0.74 g
- Fibres: 28.2 g
- Sugars: 4.03 gr
The vitamin C content is 50 times higher than that of an orange, with a concentration estimated at approximately 7 grams per 100.
It also contains interesting quantities of mineral elements such as calcium and magnesium, as well as trace elements such as manganese.
And finally, it is a notable source of essential amino acids such as Leucine, Valine and Serine, which our body cannot produce.
Benefits of Camu Camu
Camu camu is associated with several potential health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile. Here are some of the potential benefits of camu camu:
- High Vitamin C Content: This exotic fuit is renowned for its exceptionally high vitamin C content, which is crucial for immune system function. Adequate vitamin C intake supports the body’s ability to fight off infections and promotes overall immune health.
- Antioxidant Support: The fruit is rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids and ellagic acid, which help neutralize free radicals in the body. Antioxidants play a role in reducing oxidative stress, which is linked to various chronic diseases and the aging process.
- Collagen Formation: The vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein that supports skin elasticity, joint health, and connective tissues throughout the body.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Some studies suggest that camu camu may possess anti-inflammatory properties, potentially aiding in the reduction of inflammation in the body.
- Potential Antiviral Properties: Research has explored the antiviral properties of camu camu, indicating its potential in inhibiting the replication of certain viruses.
- Adaptogenic Qualities: It is sometimes considered an adaptogen, which means it may help the body adapt to stress and promote overall resilience.
- Eye Health: The presence of vitamin C in camu camu is beneficial for eye health. It may contribute to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration and support the overall health of the eyes.
- Support for Cardiovascular Health: Antioxidants and the overall nutritional content of camu camu may contribute to cardiovascular health by helping to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Digestive Health: The dietary fiber in camu camu can contribute to digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements and supporting a healthy gut.
However, it must be pointed out that while camu camu offers potential health benefits, individual responses may vary. Additionally, more research is needed to fully understand the extent of these benefits and their long-term effects.
How to Use Camu Camu
Generally, it’s advisable to consume the fruit in its raw and natural form to maximize its numerous properties. However, due to high export demand, it is predominantly processed.
As a supplement, it is available in powder and capsule forms. In culinary applications, it can be found in juices, nectars, centrifuged drinks, vegetable drinks, jams, and ice creams.
Due to its elevated citric acid content, it is utilized in the production of multivitamin products, often in conjunction with other fruits. In the pharmaceutical sector, the fruit pulp is employed in tablet and capsule preparation as a natural source of vitamin C.
To incorporate this fruit into a balanced diet, it is recommended to consume it throughout the day alongside various foods. For instance, the powder can be dissolved in liquids like water and fruit juices. Coffee, yogurt, smoothies, and ice creams are also suitable options to mask and temper its characteristic acidic taste.
Additionally, the powder can be added to cake mixes, biscuits, puddings, energy bars, etc.
Camu Camu as a Supplement
As a dietary supplement, the powdered fruit is available in packages, often sourced from organic farms.
It’s crucial to note that the fruit loses its vitamin content just one month after harvesting. Consequently, it is promptly converted into powder to preserve its valuable nutrients. Capsules containing the fruit concentrate are also an option.
Contraindications of Camu Camu
Potential side effects are primarily associated with its high vitamin C content. Exceeding recommended doses (>2g/day) may lead to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Moreover, an excess of vitamin C (>2g/day) could potentially contribute to the formation of kidney stones in predisposed individuals.
Due to its impact on iron absorption, camu camu is not recommended for individuals with iron overload conditions, such as hemochromatosis.
It is advised to avoid its consumption in cases of stomach disorders like ulcers, gastritis, and hiatal hernia, as it stimulates gastric juice production.
However, there are no age-related contraindications; it is suitable for individuals of all ages, both young and old.
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