What is Amla?
Also known as the Indian gooseberry, amla is a slightly tart berry native to Southeast Asia. Amla’s roots lie in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, where it was hailed for centuries as the “remover of all diseases.”
Fortunately, modern-day scientists have confirmed what the traditional doctors already knew — amla is one of the most healthful plants on the planet. Let’s delve into the scientific literature to determine why you should eat it every day.
Antioxidants act by neutralizing free radical particles that cause inflammation and DNA damage in the human body. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that increased dietary consumption of antioxidants reduces the risk of many cancers, cardiovascular disorders, and other chronic diseases (1, 2).
In 2010, scientists from the University of Oslo in Norway measured the antioxidant content of over 3100 different foods (3). They concluded that amla boasts an antioxidant content of 261.5 mmol/100g. To put that in perspective, the Indian gooseberry contains more antioxidants than any other fruit and vegetable, including 650x the antioxidant content of apples and 520x that of broccoli.
According to a group of five biochemical researchers from ChangMai University, amla may represent one of the most effective cancer fighters in the plant kingdom. These scientists introduced Indian gooseberry extract to six different types of human cancer cells in a petri dish. As they increased the concentration of amla extract, the rate of cancer cell growth decreased dramatically. In fact, the amla was able to kill off more than half of the cancer cells in each sample.
Not only can amla eliminate cancer cells, but data suggests it may be able to impede cancer cell metastasis. The same five researchers essentially placed cancer cells on a block of Jell-O. Then, they introduced either amla extract or a dose of a chemotherapy drug to the cancer cells. During this experiment, the Indian gooseberry extract was able to limit cancer cell invasion more than the chemotherapy medication (4).
These impressive results position amla as a potential cancer preventing agent. More trials, however, are required to further substantiate these findings.
As we now know, amla may be able to compete with a leading chemotherapy drug in the fight against cancer. Yet, what about a bestselling diabetes medication? Can Indian gooseberries treat diabetes as well?
In 2011, researchers from the University of Sargodha set out to answer this question with a three-week trial of people with type 2 diabetes. Half of the participants received a daily dose of the leading diabetes medication.
Unsurprisingly, after three weeks, their fasting blood sugar levels decreased to a normal level. The other half of participants consumed ¾ of a teaspoon of powdered amla (less than two berries) per day. After three weeks, their fasting blood sugar levels decreased even more than those in the medication group (5).
The scientists in the aforementioned diabetes experiment discovered an unintended side effect in the patients who consumed amla: lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Two years later, a team of three researchers from the Nizam Institute of Medical Scientists published a study of eighty people comparing the effects of amla and atorvastatin, a leading cholesterol-lowering medication.
For twelve weeks, the researchers administered two doses per day of 500 mg of amla (less than 1/10 of a teaspoon) to one group and a standard dose of atorvastatin to another group. At the end of the trial, both the Indian gooseberry and the atorvastatin decreased the participants’ LDL levels by 10-15% (6).
The Bottom Line
Clearly, amla can help treat a wide range of ailments. This “wonder berry” has been shown to protect heart, liver, kidney, and brain health (7). Although I hesitate to use the word “superfood,” amla may be deserving of the title.
Of course, the scientific literature on the Indian gooseberry is limited. You don’t, however, need to wait for more funding to discover the exact mechanisms by which amla may kill cancer cells or lower fasting blood sugars. Instead, you can eat amla every day and reap its benefits without paying for expensive medications or dealing with any side effects.
Amla is one of the most versatile fruits. While its taste is slightly tart, it can be enjoyed in many delicious recipes. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Fruit Smoothies with Amla Powder
Adding a teaspoon of amla to a fruit smoothie will not impact the taste whatsoever. Combine your favorite greens, fruits, nut butters, and liquids to create your ideal smoothie.
Oatmeal with Amla Powder
Again, only a teaspoon of amla powder easily blends in with a bowl of your favorite oatmeal recipe. You will hardly notice any difference in taste!
Trail Mix with Dried Amla
Swap out raisins for dried amla in your go-to mix of nuts and dried fruits. If you are very averse to the taste of amla, you can buy dried and sweetened amla candy as well. No matter how you eat it, the Indian gooseberry is an extremely healthy option for all people.