It’s a jungle out there in the juice aisle. With new arrivals hailing from exotic locales like the Amazon, Fiji, and Tibet—and with names that sound more like cartoon characters than food—you can feel like you’re stepping into another world when you first venture beyond your usual glass of orange juice.
But these beautiful berries, dubbed superfruits, have more to offer than good looks and trendy monikers. “Their vibrant red and purple coloring gives them a stronger nutrition profile than other fruits,” says Annie Neuendorf, RD, a dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “And since you need a few cups of fruit or more to make one serving of juice, you get a concentrated kick of nutrition that’s easy to work into your diet.” Check out these five superfruit juices, and learn why experimenting with them can be so good for your health.
This little berry contains 10 times more anthocyanins—potent antioxidants—than red wine. “Anthocyanins have been shown to inhibit the growth of an enzyme in the body that is needed for cancer cells to multiply,” explains Beth Reardon, RD, integrative nutritionist at Duke Integrative Medicine. Açaí also teems with phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Try It: Heating açaí may reduce its antioxidant content, warns David Grotto, RN, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. So don’t use it in a meat marinade or sauce. Instead, mix açaí juice with fresh or frozen fruit and vanilla yogurt or soy milk for a healthy smoothie.
We Like: Sambazon Organic Açaí Juice (www.sambazon.com)
Pomegranates have a potent polyphenol content—three times that of green tea or red wine—that boosts the production of enzymes in the liver that our bodies use to detoxify carcinogens. Polyphenols also scavenge free radicals that could damage cell DNA. And new research shows that drinking pomegranate juice after radiation therapy may decrease the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.
Try It: Reduce 1 cup pomegranate juice with 1/2 cup wild blueberries for a compote you can drizzle over ice cream or pancakes. Or soak cooked rice for five minutes in pomegranate juice, and then drain for a flavorful side dish.
This childhood favorite is loaded with natural polyphenols that, according to a recent study, significantly improve age-related memory problems in adults who drink two to three cups a day. With both heart-healthy anthocyanins, which improve circulation by strengthening capillaries, and a high antioxidant content for mopping up free radicals, grape juice is a healthy sip no matter what your age.
Try It: Toss 1/4 to 1/2 cup grape juice into your favorite marinara sauce and simmer.
Sweet cherries, such as the black or bing varieties, contain lots of antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. But, says Reardon, “the anthocyanins found in tart cherries act as cyclooxygenase inhibitors, blocking the enzymes responsible for the formation of inflammatory agents, which cause pain for arthritis sufferers.” According to Reardon, tart cherries actually act in the same way as Vioxx and Celebrex.
Try It: Add chopped garlic, shallots, and chipotle chili powder to tart cherry juice for a sweet and savory steak marinade. Bonus: The juice reduces the formation of carcinogenic compounds that occur from the charring of meat.
We Like: R.W. Knudsen Organic Just Tart Cherry Juice (www.knudsenjuices.com)
Goji berry’s high concentrations of antioxidants, beta-carotene (even more than carrots) and zeaxanthin—a carotenoid that benefits the retina of the eye—may protect against age-related macular degeneration. Plus, the antioxidants in goji juice “are important for reducing inflammation in the body and preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is associated with heart disease,” says Reardon.
Try It: With a flavor hovering somewhere between carrot and cranberry, this juice isn’t always the easiest to drink straight; combining it with curry spices in a sauce or salad dressing makes it more palatable. Add 3/4 cup goji juice to 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon curry powder, and a handful of chopped tomato and onion for a tangy curry that’s great over chicken and rice.
We Like: Gojilania Organic (www.gojilania.com)
Get Off Your Sugar High
Drinking a lot of fruit juice, which is high in sugar and calories, could throw a serious wrench into your diet plans. So drink in moderation, and follow these simple rules:
Read the label, and take a pass on juices that have added sugar.
Reach for 100 percent juice, which contains more vitamins and minerals, so you get more bang for your caloric buck.
Remember to count the calories that you drink. They can add up fast.