The term superfood was reportedly coined in 2005 by a nutrition expert who was trying to spread the word about the health benefits of eating nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables. Since then everything from kale and quinoa to coconut oil and the açai berry have been deemed superfoods.
Well, now there’s another berry to add to that list: the maqui berry. But like the açai, the maqui berry is also considered a superfruit. Superfruits are full of antioxidants, nutrient dense and come in a rainbow of rich, deep colors.
A study published in 2018 in the journal Food and Science Nutrition found that superfruits are a “valuable source of functional foods due to the phytochemical compositions and their corresponding antioxidant activities.” They also have numerous flavonoids, carotenoids and anthocyanins, which are sometimes believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer.
The study listed several superfruits, including:
- acerola cherry
- goji berry
- Java plum
- Brazilian cherry
And of course, the maqui berry.
New Fruit in the Basket
Native to the Chilean Patagonia territory, the maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) is also called the Chilean wineberry. When the evergreen plant blooms at the end of spring, the small, unisex white flowers eventually yield an edible fruit. While still on the plant, the maqui fruit starts out as a bright, red berry and eventually intensifies to a deep purple.
When the berries are ripe, they’re harvested from wild plants by collectors from December to March or April, mainly by the Mapuche Indians — the region’s Indigenous people — who harvest them near the Andes Mountains. Unfortunately, continued deforestation hinders natural seed dispersal by birds.
The juice of the black-purple berries has an antioxidant content between two and six times higher than juices of other superfruits, including pomegranate, blueberry, açai and cranberry. The berries are also particularly rich in anthocyanins, which is what gives them the deep purple color and may be responsible for so many of the health benefits.
Where to Buy Maqui Berry and How to Use It
Fresh maqui berries might be hard to find outside of South America because they don’t propagate well on farms — they still grow wild in Patagonia. But you can buy maqui in powder, juice or capsule form. Supplements are available online or in natural-food and specialty vitamin stores.
You can blend the powder into smoothies or add it as a topper to cereal, yogurt, oatmeal or anywhere else you’d like a healthy boost. And with a tart taste akin to blackberries and cherries, you can use maqui berry juice or powder anywhere you’d use berries.