About healthy instincts and a new anti-inflammatory superfruit: The Araçá
English translation of an article about an amazing azorian fruit I wrote for my German healthblog.
When I landed here in the Azores at the end of 2019, it felt more like a crash landing for me in some ways after the stress of the past few months – there’s just so much going on with a drastic lifestyle change like an emigration, like moving house, moving everything around work-wise and preparing, so that you are prepped, things that come up with relatives, official matters and lots of unexpected little things, which I don’t want to go into too much detail here.
And then everything that happens what one could not have foreseen despite a detailed and far-sighted, highly sensitive brain.
And of course this subliminal tension over all the years or even decades that one needed to be able to endure a life that didn’t really fit (I don’t even mean Germany, but for me, above all, life without a garden), the can finally fall off one.
In fact, I crashed hard at first (or at least I was the first of my fellow travelers to crash). I became ill, almost all the symptoms affecting my skin, intestines and nervous system came back temporarily, suffered from exhaustion and caught a throat infection. Looking back, I have to say that I was still quite functional and that I was able to lift a lot during that time, which of course also had to do with the fact that I was prepared by my work as a health coach specialized on highly sensitive people who got into a complex sickness after big life stressors and transitions, and I would have been surprised if my body hadn’t reacted the way she did.
As a result, I was able to prepare myself well physically, was able to take good care of myself and remained relatively calm despite unpleasant symptoms (of course, the situations where acute activity is required and you can’t just wait until you’ve finished resting, like official matters and financial things, dripping roofs and a mouse invasion are tricky. Yes, healing is an art, because we don’t live in a test tube).
A friend from Berlin came to visit me one beautiful day, she and her husband have a wonderful house on Graciosa themselves and she also works in the health sector as a chiropractor and meditation teacher. She showed me various things in my new garden, and pointed out a fruit that I hadn’t known was edible, but which had caught my eye and piqued my curiosity.
It’s called strawberry guava or araçá (plural araçás; not to be confused with the acai berry!), and at first glance it looks like a mini pomegranate. Originally from Brazil, it also occurs in the Caribbean and Hawaii. It tastes very sweet but also very sour at the same time, an ingenious mixture. November and December brought us plenty of them, it is an undemanding tree that spreads easily (too easily, to the point of being invasive).
Once I started with them I couldn’t get enough and neither could my sister. The daily harvest (combined with a walk across our 1 hectare premises) became a highlight. A neighbor conjured up a wonderful fruit compote from them. The fruit seemed like the most delicious thing I had ever eaten and digested beautifully, despite my troubled history with fruits. My body gave me a strong YES to them. She was noticeably good for me.
The flowers smell nicely sweet and are a popular food source for bees. Research revealed that the Araçá (Psidium cattleianum) is related to the guava (which we also have in the garden; both belong to the Myrtaceae family). We have different variations on our land, all of which taste slightly different, some more intense, some finer.
The key finding: They’re incredibly rich in vitamin C, more so than some citrus fruits (research found levels between 41.19mg/100g and 300mg/100g – the lemon and orange have 50mg/100g), but judging by my body’s reactions (skin and digestion) they are completely poor in citric acid (which can be very irritating for sensitive folks who also can´t eat to much citrus fruits, tomatoes, pineapple and the like)!
They are also rich in carotenoids, B vitamins (the thiamine level (B1) is up to 100 µg, which can be considered high compared to other fruits), zinc (0.5mg/100g), iron (0.21mg/ 100g), phosphorus (33mg/100g), calcium (21-48mg/100g), potassium (292mg/100g), pectin, anthocyanins and polyphenols (total content of phenolic compounds of 768-3,713.24 mg/100g, higher than strawberries and grapes), including epicatechin (2.7mg/100g) and small amounts of quercetin.
Psidium cattleianum Sabine (Myrtacea) is known as strawberry guava or araçá. The fruits have white pulp and a tart taste, and are rich in vitamin C (Lapcik et al., 2005; Luximon-Ramma et al., 2003; Pino et al., 2001) and contain a large amount of phenolic compounds including epicatechin and gallic acid as the main components (Medina et al., 2011). (Castro et al. 2014)
Other composition: 37-62 kcal, 0.5-1.5% protein, 0.49% fat, 7.87-14.3% carbohydrates, 5.2-24.9% fiber.
The high content of vitamins, minerals and secondary plant compounds gives the fruit a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effect. A true superfood, ideal for people with chronic inflammatory diseases! Araçás are considered valuable for nervousness, anxiety disorders, digestive problems, ulcers, infections of the mouth and throat area (including caries), the intestine (dysbiosis) and the urogenital tract, exhaustion and anemia. Studies show growth-inhibiting effects on cancer cells, the high proportion of phenolic compound supports micro-RNA expression and DNA methylation (epigenetic regulation). Antiviral, antibacterial, biofilm-dissolving, analgesic, diuretic and anti-constipation and diarrhea substances can be extracted from all parts of the tree.
P. cattleianum contains flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin and cyanidin) and tannin (ellagic acid), which are recognized as having antibacterial activity. In general, phenolic compounds are known to inhibit glucosyltransferase production in S. mutans [caries causing bacteria]. Particularly, flavonoid activity is probably due to its ability to form complexes with extracellular and soluble proteins and with bacterial cell walls; tannins are able to inactivate proteins by forming irreversible complexes that may lead to loss of function of microbial adhesins, enzymes, cell envelope transport proteins. […] Phenolic agents have potent antimicrobial activity by enzyme inhibition and may interfere with microbial adhesion to host tissues by modifying microbial adhesins and host receptors involved in the process. High contents of phenols might also lead to protein precipitation and inhibition of microbial growth. (Crivelaro de Menezes et al. 2010)
All araçá extracts reduced survival rates of breast cancer cells and colon cancer cells, by a mechanism other than toxicity since these extracts did not affect fibroblast cells. (Medina et al. 2011)
Wow, what an amazing fruit and true superfood I hadn’t noticed until now! Completely uncomplicated and ecologically cultivated. Now, months later, after my body had long since confirmed it, I read the biochemical studies with fascination.
It teaches me three things:
-Mother Nature always has the best and most beautiful medicine ready for us. And she sends her messengers to guide us in the right moments.
-I can (nowadays after years of cleansing out my diet and lifestyle and getting into communication with my body) rely on my instincts. My body already knows without the help of my mind what it needs, what nourishes and supports it. This is how indigenous peoples have been doing it for 10,000s of years, in harmony with nature, highly sensitive in connection with their five senses.
-Wherever I am, I experience that I am cared for. Now if you’re thinking „boo, but I can’t get any Araçás right now, don’t waste my time here,“ read between the lines. Wherever I am, I will find the right superfood for me without having to travel to exotic countries or have any magic berries exported from distant countries, which are questionable from an environmental point of view. Sure, I also love my exotic superfoods from packages and I’m the absolute nerd when it comes to that. It’s just fun and exciting. But don’t make everything dependent on that. The local wild herbs, for example, are insanely loaded when it comes to nutrient density. And they are not a substitute for a healthy and balanced lifestyle anyway, there is so much more to it than what you throw in your smoothie.
Take this article as inspiration so that it remains exciting to see what good things can still be discovered in this world, and above all where your instinct, your gut feeling, can lead you once it has been freed from civilized and cerebral dominance. Your high sensitivity can become your super power. Therefore, always pay attention to what you set your radar to. On the good things, or the ones that bring you down? Our subconscious will automatically lead us there.
And who knows, maybe we’ll meet in the Azores someday? =)