Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Are you ready to join the superfood juice craze? Maybe you’re not 100 percent sure how to pronounce açai, goji, or mangosteen. Maybe you’ve yet to try your first taste of noni juice. But you’ve no doubt noticed that juices from these age-old fruits from around the globe—pomegranates appear in Greek mythology, the Bible, and the Koran, for example—are now as common as cranberry juice at grocery and health food stores.
Research continues to uncover unique health benefits from each of these four superfoods—from pain relief and cancer-fighting properties to immune-boosting powers. Add to that the high antioxidant activity from plant compounds in these fruits, plus off-the-charts levels of essential vitamins (e.g., did you know goji berries have more vitamin C than oranges?), and you’ve got a group of ancient foods that deserve their modern-day hype. Here’s a quick guide to our five favorite superfood juices.
Background: In the Brazilian rain forest, juice from the açai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berry has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The tiny, bluish-black fruit from Amazonian palm trees doesn’t travel well, so açai is found primarily in juice and powdered form outside of Brazil.
Why it’s super: Açai contains 10 times the anthocyanins of red wine. Indeed, açai berries are “one of the richest fruit sources of antioxidants,” says Stephen Talcott, PhD, professor of food chemistry at Texas A&M University. The juice’s popularity soared after word got out that its antioxidant activity might have age-defying benefits. There is also scientific evidence for cancer suppression: A small study published in Integrative Cancer Treatment found that açai juice slowed the progression of prostate cancer. “This small single-arm study requires larger study but does suggest a role for açai in stabilizing disease,” the researchers wrote.
Did you Know?
Açai contains a small amount of caffeine, and some açai products also contain the stimulant guarana. Be sure to check labels if you’re sensitive.
How to get more: This superfood juice tastes like a strong chocolate-berry combination. Drink it or a concentrated extract straight or add to shakes and smoothies. Açai is also widely available in powdered and capsule forms.
Background: Pomegranates hold a prominent place in history: They’re mentioned in the Koran, celebrated in the Torah, and speculated to be the original forbidden fruit. (The word “pomegranate” is a derivative of Latin for “seeded apple.”)
Why it’s super: The juicy, seedy gems are potent warriors against cancer. A study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that consuming eight ounces of antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice a day can slow the spread of prostate cancer. “I’m not saying it’s a cure,” says Allan Pantuck, MD, lead author of the study. “But there are a lot of reasons to recommend it and not a lot of reasons to avoid it.” Other studies have shown that pomegranate juice has significant health benefits in lowering blood pressure and preventing osteoarthritis and heart disease.
How to get more: Drink the juice from this superfood (or a concentrated extract) straight, or use it to flavor sparkling water. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over salads, or use to decorate cakes and tarts.
Product picks: Guard yourself against cancer and heart disease with Jarrow Formulas’ PomeGreat Pomegranate Juice Concentrate. Or boost your energy with Garden of Life Perfect Food Energizer Yerba Mate Pomegranate, featuring sustainably grown organic yerba mate, pomegranate, maca, and cordyceps, plus live probiotics and enzymes.
Background: Mangosteen is a deep reddish-purple fruit with a hard, woody rind that grows in subtropical climates. It’s prized in Southeast Asia and South America for its soft, snow-white segments with a delicate floral flavor and a texture akin to a plum (and no, it’s not related to the mango).
Why it’s super: An Ohio State University study examined mangosteen’s high levels of xanthones, certain antioxidant compounds occurring in greater amounts in the rind and seeds of this fruit than any other. These xanthones combat inflammation and free radicals (harmful ions that can contribute to cancer). Another study, published in Food Science & Nutrition, found that healthy adults who consumed a mangosteen drink daily saw improvements in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory biomarkers.
How to get more: Look for mangosteen superfood juice made from the whole fruit (the rind contains most of the fruit’s benefits). The juice has a tart, full-bodied flavor and rich, red color. Sip it straight or try a juice blend with mangosteen. Add a dash to smoothies or dilute it with water or sparkling water.
Product picks: Mango-xan from Pure Fruit Technologies contains 100 percent pure mangosteen fruit—try a serving after a workout for enhanced recovery. Or mix it up with Dynamic Health’s Mangosteen Juice Blend, featuring organic mangosteen plus other superfruits, including goji berry and pomegranate.
Background: These raisin-like dried berries (or “wolfberries”) have been used for centuries by Chinese cooks. Buddhist cooks also use rehydrated goji berries as a meat substitute in dumplings.
Why they’re super: “Goji berry is a truly unique discovery,” says Nicholas Perricone, MD, dermatologist and author of Dr. Perricone’s 7 Secrets to Beauty, Health, and Longevity. Goji may be the only food known to stimulate the secretion of human growth hormone, which is thought to inhibit classic signs of aging, including wrinkles and susceptibility to disease, Perricone says. They also contain more vitamin C than oranges, more beta-carotene than carrots, and more iron than soybeans or spinach.
How to get more: Dried berries are readily available in health food stores and Asian markets. You can munch on a handful or plump them in boiling water and use them the same way you’d use raisins or dried cranberries (they taste like a slightly floral combination of the two) in cookies, cakes, oatmeal, yogurt, or cereal. The juice has a mild flavor; drink it on its own or add it to a smoothie.
Product Picks: For a quick, low-calorie snack (about 100 calories), grab a handful of Navitas Organics Organic Goji Berries. Or drink yourself to better health with Gopal’s Goji One organic goji berry juice.
Background: With a shape and color reminiscent of a hand grenade, noni fruit packs a lot of power. It has been used as medicine for hundreds of years in Polynesia for everything from energy and wounds to stomach ulcers and hypertension. Noni is one of the most frequently used herbal medicines in Hawaii and Samoa.
Why it’s super: Noni is rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, healthy fats, vitamins C and E, potassium, enzymes and unique phytochemicals that are known to support immune function and a balanced inflammatory response. Animal studies suggest noni may protect against cancer.
How to get more: Of all the fruits mentioned here, noni has the most, let’s just say, distinctive flavor. It’s not for everyone, in which case supplements (powder, liquid, or capsules) are preferred. (Superfood powders that contain noni make great smoothie add-ons!) But don’t avoid trying it first—the sour, slightly citrusy, and earthy flavor is loved by many.
Product picks: Dynamic Health Certified Organic Noni Blend is a standout for sure. As a supplement, we like Nature’s Plus Spiru-Tein High Protein Energy Meal Exotic Red Fruit.