We asked a registered dietitian: Is this berry worth all of the hype?

By Maki Yazawa
November 03, 2020
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You may have recently heard Zac Efron rave about the benefits of camu camu on the Netflix show Down to Earth and wondered whether or not you should try it yourself. In the episode, Efron travels to Peru, alongside health and wellness expert and self-proclaimed “superfood hunter” Darin Olien, to explore the supposed antioxidant-rich, vitamin-packed benefits of camu camu. But is this Amazonian berry all it's made out to be? We asked a registered dietitian to get to the bottom of it. Spoiler alert: The answer is yes! 

What is Camu Camu?

Camu camu is a small, bushy tree that grows along the Amazon rainforest riverside, primarily in Peru and Brazil. This plant yields a tart red berry with several health properties that may help boost the immune system.

Camu Camu Benefits

According to Roxana Ehsani, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “One teaspoon of raw camu camu provides 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, and 240 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.”

Ehsani notes that camu camu contains powerful antioxidants, "such as vitamin C and flavonoid antioxidants, like anthocyanins and ellagic acid, that protect cells against free radicals that can damage them.” According to Ehsani, ellagic acid also may inhibit inflammation. She notes that a small study conducted on smokers found that “drinking 70 milliliters of camu camu juice containing 1,050 milligrams of vitamin C for one week decreased inflammation markers.” However, the topic needs further research for more conclusive evidence.?

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According to another small study, researchers found that “incorporating camu camu into one’s diet may be helpful for anyone who has pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol.” For the experiment, 18 participants were given camu camu capsules for 15 days. Ehsani explains that “researchers found a significant increase in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and significant decreases in fasting blood sugars (blood glucose), as well as LDL cholesterol levels among participants.”

What Is the Best Way to Consume Camu Camu?

Camu camu can be found in both pill and powder form, as most consider the raw berry too sour or bitter to consume on its own. This tart antioxidant becomes more palatable when mixed into smoothies, drinks, batters, or even hot cereals like oatmeal.

Ehsani says that camu camu is “not believed to cause any serious adverse effects at high intakes, however consuming excess amounts of vitamin C may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and nausea.” Ehsani notes to always consult with a medical professional or a registered dietitian before consuming any supplements to discuss any potential interactions or side effects. 

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