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7 Things You Didn’t Know About...Maqui Berries

April 28, 2014

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Move over gojis, acais, and blues—there’s a new berry in town.

The maqui berry may be one of the lesser known superfood berries, but based on its plethora of health benefits and how easy it is to cultivate, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing more and more of it.

Its rich purple color comes from anthocyanins, some of the most powerful antioxidants, which have been associated with anti-cancer properties. Maqui is also touted as a natural remedy for arthritis and high cholesterol, with the science to back it up. The few studies that have been done specifically on maqui berries show that maqui did help lower bad LDL cholesterol and fight inflammation, particularly for arthritis sufferers.

I could go on about its powerful health benefits, but I’ll spare you the common superfood spiel. Instead, I’ll share with you these 7 facts I bet you didn’t know about maqui berries:

  1. Maqui is a truly wild food:  Maqui grows so abundantly in thepristine wilderness of Patagonia that there is no need to cultivate it. The native Mapuche Indians hand-harvest it straight from Mother Nature, no farm needed.
  2. Maqui promotes strength and vigor: The Mapuche Indians are the oldest existing civilization in South America. Earliest records put the start of their civilization at 500-600 BC, and they are still thriving today, making up 10% of Chile’s population with about 1.5 million people. The Mapuche were able to effectively defend their territory against both the Incans and, later, the Spaniards. The Spaniards, with whom war raged for 300 years, believed that the fermented maqui berry drink the Mapuche Warriors drank daily contributed to their strength and vigor which make them unconquerable. The same maqui drink is still enjoyed today for stamina and endurance. For your own warrior juice, add maqui powder to your morning smoothies.  
  3. Maqui is medicine: To the Mapuche, maqui is a sacred plant. Not only does it increase strength and overall health, it was also traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments, like sore throat, diarrhea, ulcers, and fevers. While scientific studies are lacking to support these uses, the fact that it has continued to be used as a remedy for centuries provides a strong case.
  4. Maqui can help you lose weight: Sure, any diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables can help promote weight loss. However, maqui in particular may be even more beneficial for weight loss than some other foods, thanks to their extremely high anthocyanin content. A Japanese study on anthocyanins found that this antioxidant can be very effective in aiding weight loss.
  5. Maqui could be the fountain of youth: They taste good on their own, but knowing that eating these tiny berries may keep your skin wrinkle-resistant and your body biologically young somehow makes them taste just a bit sweeter. Of all the foods we know of, maqui has one of the highest antioxidant values. Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage (which can cause wrinkles) and slow the biological aging process.
  6. Maqui is a natural food dye: Food coloring is typically made in a food lab, but maqui berry juice can be used to color your desserts or other foods a gorgeous shade of purple, without the chemicals. 
  7. Dried maqui is as potent as fresh: Unfortunately, since maqui is not currently cultivated in the States, you’ll only be able to find it in powder, dried, or juice form. Not to fear, the powder and dried berries retain much of the nutritional value and fiber, and are the next best thing to fresh. I personally don’t recommend juices, as they are typically highly processed in order to be shelf-stable.  

Have you tried maqui berries before? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes? Link to them in the comments below!