When we think of foods rich in ellagic acid, we typically think of berries such as raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. But are there also other good dietary sources of this powerful phenolic compound that has been shown to exert strong anti-cancer and antioxidant activity in test tube and animal studies? Turns out, also several exotic fruits (such as pomegranate), a few nuts (such as walnuts), and even the Fistulina hepatica mushroom contain high levels of ellagic acid (or ellagitannins which can be hydrolyzed into ellagic acid).
Here’s a list of 10 good, if not the best, sources of ellagic acid Mother Nature has blessed us with:
1. Wild Strawberries
Wild strawberries, also known by their scientific name Fragaria vesca, might well be the best natural source of ellagic acid there is. They have been shown to contain about ten times as much ellagic acid as raspberries, the next food on our list. Also wild strawberry leaf tea as well as cultivated strawberries are good sources, even though they contain much less ellagic acid than wild strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
Raspberries are known for their health benefits, many of which are linked to their high concentration of ellagic acid. In fact, when it comes to foods that are rich in ellagic acid, it is hard to beat raspberries. On a dry weight basis, raspberries have been shown to contain more than twice the amount of ellagic acid found in cultivated strawberries, almost three times the amount found in walnuts, and almost five times the amount found in pecans. Nearly 90% of the ellagic acid in the raspberry fruit is contained in its tiny seeds.
Also blackberries are right there on top of the list of foods that contain ellagic acid. A study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found that the blackberry fruit contains about as much ellagic acid as its close relative, the raspberry. For more on blackberries, check out our in-depth article Health Benefits of Blackberries.
Both raspberries and blackberries are members of the Rubus genus of fruit bearing plants. But they are hardly the only Rubus berries that have been shown to contain significant levels of ellagic acid. Cloudberries, also known by their scientific name Rubus chamaemorus, are packed with ellagic acid. These beautiful orange berries grow wild in bogs, marshes and wet meadows in Scandinavia, northern Canada, and Alaska.
5. Exotic Fruits in the Myrtaceae Family
A Brazilian study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture detected significant levels of ellagic acid in exotic fruits in the Myrtaceae family of plants. The total ellagic acid levels in most of the tested Myrtaceae fruits were even higher than the levels found in cultivated strawberries (which are considered one of the best natural sources of ellagic acid in the US and UK). The Myrtaceae fruits that had the highest levels included jabuticaba, cambuci, and Surinam cherries (regular cherries, which belong to the Rosaceae family, did not have detectable levels). Myrtaceae fruits with somewhat lower levels included camu-camu, red guava, and white guava.
6. Pomegranate Fruit
Next up on our list of foods rich in ellagic acid is the pomegranate. Although the amounts of free ellagic acid in the pomegranate fruit are relatively low compared with fruits like cultivated strawberries or blackberries, this gorgeous red fruit has high levels of total ellagic acid thanks to the high amounts of ellagitannins it contains.
Most of the world’s best sources of ellagic acid are fruits and berries, but there are also a few nuts that contain this phenolic acid. Walnuts, for example, have been shown to contain almost as much ellagic acid as cultivated strawberries (on a dry weight basis). As an added bonus, walnuts are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids for vegans and other people who don’t eat fish. To learn more about the nutritional benefits of walnuts, check out the article Walnut – An Antioxidant-Rich Superfood with Many Health Benefits.
Pecans, which belong to the same Juglandaceae family as walnuts, have also been shown to contain ellagic acid. However, they contain only slightly more than half of the ellagic acid found in walnuts. You should also note that apart from walnuts and pecans, nuts are not considered a good source of ellagic acid (cashew nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds – for example – have not been shown to contain detectable levels of this polyphenol).
9. Beefsteak Fungus (Ox Tongue Mushroom)
When it comes to the most unexpected natural sources of ellagic acid, beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) is right there on top of the list. Also known as the ox tongue mushroom, this meaty mushroom has been used as a meat substitute in the past. This reddish-brown mushroom is commonly found growing on oaks and chestnut trees in Britain, but it can be found in the rest of Europe, North America, and Australia.
Protection against urinary tract infections is probably the most famous health benefit of the superfood cranberry, but cranberry extracts have also been shown to inhibit the growth of human oral, prostate, colon, and breast tumor cell lines in test tubes. Not surprising, considering that cranberries contain a wide range of phenolic compounds, including some ellagic acid.
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