The Health Benefits of Camu Camu, the Buzzy Superfood Popping Up Everywhere
Here's what a nutritionist has to say about this trendy berry.
Camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is a berry native to the Amazon rainforest. That sounds remote, but this so-called superfood has long been used to improve health and has become increasingly popular in the US—with several brands producing and selling camu camu in stores and online. Camu camu's purported health benefits include reducing the risk of chronic diseases thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Similar to tart cranberries, the camu camu berry is too acidic for most people to enjoy its natural state. It's generally processed as an ingredient in blended juices or freeze-dried into a powder that can be taken as a supplement, added to smoothies, or blended into other foods.
Camu camu is high in vitamin C
Nutritionally, camu camu is one of the most concentrated natural food sources of vitamin C. The fruit’s pulp provides about 2,400 to 3,000 grams (or 2,400,000 milligrams) per 3.5-ounce or so serving. For context, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for vitamin C is 60 milligrams a day.
Processing of camu camu destroys some of its natural vitamin C, but even in a processed state, camu camu is an excellent source of this crucial nutrient. Because of its high vitamin C content, camu camu is also rich in antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties. For example, a single teaspoon serving of one brand of freeze-dried camu camu powder provides 682 mg of vitamin C—more than 10 times the amount in a medium-size orange.
It contains crucial minerals
Beyond vitamin C, camu camu provides smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and copper. Like most colorful berries, camu camu is a good source of polyphenols. These micronutrients are antioxidants; previous research has linked polyphenols to improved gut health, improved heart health, and a reduced risk for certain types of cancer. Camu camu also has antimicrobial properties, and researchers have identified compounds in the fruit that have strong antimicrobial benefits.
Few studies have been conducted to fully understand if camu camu can help prevent or mitigate disease, and the research that has been conducted has been rodent models rather than large-scale human studies.
Though research is in very preliminary stages, one promising study found that when camu camu was given to mice on high-fat, high-sugar diets, the mice experienced a boost in metabolism as well as changes in gut microbiome, thereby potentially helping to prevent obesity. Of course, much more research is needed before people can expect to prevent weight gain by popping a camu camu supplement or sipping a drink infused with camu camu.
Be aware of a few risks
Speaking of camu camu supplements, a word of caution: Most carry a warning for women who are pregnant or nursing, stating that they should consult their doctor before taking it. Since high doses of any nutrient can have adverse effects, it’s always a good idea to discuss any supplement or medicinal therapy you take with a health care professional, especially if you are already taking other medication or supplements.
Recent studies also suggest that there is an optimal amount of antioxidants to have in your diet, and too much or too little is harmful to health. Since camu camu is a potent antioxidant, it may be best to only consume it in very small quantities—no more than the equivalent of 200% of the RDI for vitamin C per day.
How to use camu camu in meals
Some of the most popular ways to add the superfruit to your diet is to purchase camu camu powder and add a pinch to smoothies, or blend into yogurt, oatmeal, or baked goods. Or try about 1/4 teaspoon into your favorite herbal tea.
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