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The camu camu berry is a well researched, exceedingly nutritious tropical delight that you've probably never heard of. Native to the Amazonian rain forest of Brazil and popular in Japan, camu camu products are probably available near you.

Sometimes people who don't live in the Amazonian rain forest become wildly enthusiastic about fruits and berries that people who live in the rain forest completely ignore. The camu camu "berry" is one of those foods.

The Myrciaria dubia tree that yields the purplish, cherry-like but plum-sized camu camu fruit grows three or four meters (10 or 12 feet) tall on the banks of the Amazon and its tributaries. This plant can survive with its roots under water for four or five months at a time, and it grows on flood plains where other trees cannot. It flowers during the dry season and drops its fruit into the waters surrounding it during the wet season, making harvest a matter of scooping up the The plant is fantastically productive. A hectare of trees can yield 10,000 kilos of fruit every year.

 

The fruit is also amazingly high in vitamin C. A tenth of a teaspoon of camu camu powder provides more than a full day's vitamin C. The fruit is rich in the amino acid valine, which prevents the breakdown of muscles. It is also rich in the branched-chain amino acid leucine, which helps build up muscle. It contains a variety of anthocyanidins, the red and purple pigments found in berries and cherries, that have antioxidant properties that fight inflammation in, you guessed it, muscle. But the vitamins and antioxidants in the berry are more highly concentrated when the fruit is underripe, and even when ripe, camu camu is too sour to eat without adding lots of sugar.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Best Ways to Use Camu Camu

The diet gurus tell us that sugar is poison, and paleo dieters who might otherwise try to emulate the kind of diet they (erroneously) believe primitive peoples ate would certainly never opt for a sugar-sweetened powder no matter how much vitamin C it contained. However, there is a time and a place for sugar, and that's right after you have worked out your muscles to the max.

Resistance exercise that tests your limits breaks down muscle fibers that will be rebuilt stronger. For a couple of hours after you work out hard, your muscles are uniquely sensitive to the effects of insulin. They soak up sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream to rebuild their stores of glycogen. Muscle combines glucose and water to make its own store of glycogen for making energy that doesn't have to be obtained from the bloodstream in the middle of a workout. The combination of water and glucose also "pumps up" the muscle. Camu camu itself is low in sugar, but you won't be able to eat it without sweeteners of some kind. Right after a workout, sugars plus amino acids (also found in the fruit) plus water are exactly what your muscles need.

Can You Cook with Camu Camu?

In the cities and towns of the Amazon basin in Peru and Brazil, vendors sell camu camu ice cream and a leathery kind of camu camu candy. If you happen to make ice cream at home, you could try camu camu flavorings. Just don't overdo the fruit for this ice cream.

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