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Acai berry, kale and chia seeds aren’t the only “superfoods” trying to grab the attention of the health-conscious consumer. The aronia berry is also competing for the title, and these black-purple berries put up a good fight!

Aronia berries, also known as chokeberries, are highly nutritious. They contain high levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols and anthocyanins. Why is this important? Anthocyanins have been linked to preventative and therapeutic roles, including cancer and heart disease prevention, as well as obesity and diabetes control. Aronia berries are considered to have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any fruit, even blueberries. While blueberries contain 844 milligrams of anthocyanins per 100 grams of fruit, aronia berries have 1,480 milligrams!

Pop one of these berries in your mouth and you may pucker up a bit. They are fairly astringent, and while they may not make the best snacking berry, they’re delicious combined with other ingredients. I recently purchased my first ever bag of aronia berries from Teresa Brockman, owner of Sunny Lane Farms in the Mackinaw Valley area. She graciously gave me a booklet of recipes, helping me figure out what to do with my new purchase.

I first made a delicious aronia berry bread recipe that was a big hit in my home! I then ventured out on my own to throw together a smoothie with aronia berries, frozen peaches, strawberries, plain yogurt, milk and a bit of sweetener. The dark purple drink was a refreshing treat and equally satisfying, knowing the powerful nutrition it offers. Finally, I swapped out cranberries for aronia berries in a roasted Brussel sprout, pecan and goat cheese side dish. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen, and my family did as well!

Unlike the acai berry, which cannot be purchased fresh in the states, aronia berry bushes are mainly found in the Midwest. The Brockmans grow more than 1,200 bushes on their family farm. The aronia berry is gaining momentum in the marketplace, but this superfruit has a long way to go to become more readily available. It’s our job to support our local growers, including Sunny Lane Farms. While Brockman is currently out of fresh aronia berries for the season, she’s still selling frozen berries, aronia berry tea and aronia berry juice. For more information, call (309) 467-4251 or email sunnylanearonia@gmail.com.

Smith, a registered dietitian, is a nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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