Keeping track of the latest superfruit in vogue can be an elusive goal, a quest largely driven by modern marketing and, quite possibly, producers of shows like "The Dr. Oz Show." The term 'superfruit' has only been used for about a decade to sell the potential health benefits of nutrient-dense fruits.
To rise above the chatter, the new superfruits often have to be the subject of a recent study or featured in mainstream media, and there's often no rhyme or reason to what they showcase.
Names of the often-exotic fruits seem destined more for a Scrabble board than a shopping list: Berries such as acai, goji and schizandra; pitayas, harvested from cactuses; or baobab, borne mainly of an African tree. There are plenty of 'super' staples, among them-- blueberries, cherries, red grapes and oranges.
Many everyday fruits can make the same nutritional claims as their 'super' cousins: high in nutrition and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. They also possess marketable health-related selling points such as 'blackberries protect against heart disease' or 'pomegranates lower blood pressure.'
The whole superfruit trend may be driven by a movement of people, especially here in California, who want to get their nutrients from foods and move away from supplements.
Here's a short list of superfruits that may be worth checking out:
Often called the aronia berry, the fruit grows on a bush in clusters, owes its nickname--the chokeberry to its extraordinarily tart taste. Broadly used in Europe in jams and jellies, the aronia is also found in wine, juices, tea, syrup and sauces, and sold as an extract and a supplement.
The aronia has three times as many antioxidants as the blueberry, according to Superberries, a Nebraska company that markets the fruit. Its deep, reddish-purple hues reflect an unusually high level of anthocyanin, a pigment that has been studied for its disease-fighting qualities. The aronia is also high in vitamin C.
The flavor of the cantaloupe-sized gac has been described as reminiscent of cantaloupe with hints of green melon and carrot. Only its large seeds and the oil covering them are edible; the outer layer is toxic. Often incorporated into a sticky rice dish in Asia, gac is being marketed off the continent as a powder supplement and juice.
Gac is said to have 70 times the content of the antioxidant lycopene as a tomato does, according to scientists, and 10 times the beta-carotene of carrots. Lycopene, the carotenoid responsible for the red color of the fruit, has been linked to lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration. A 2005 study by the International Journal of Oncology also suggested that gac may inhibit the growth of some cancers.
Native to China and Thailand, the melon-like fruit is named for the 13th century monks thought to have first used it. Popular in China in dried form, the fruit is making its way to U.S. stores as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. Its popularity stems from the awareness of stevia, another plant-based natural sweetener.
Monk fruit is reportedly hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and leaves less of a bitter aftertaste than stevia. Historically, dried monk fruit has been used to flavor beverages, soups and teas. As a modern-day extract, it is marketed as a no-calorie, low-glycemic sweetener for beverages and baked goods.
The buffaloberry was recently spotlighted by a study in the Journal of Food Science that concluded its powerhouse antioxidants could make it the next big superfruit-- if production can be commercialized.