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Aronia Berry - Chokeberry

Chokeberries are commonly used as the base fruit for gummie candies!

Aronia berries originate from the eastern parts of North America and East Canada. In other words they are considered a “domestic” berry having originated in the Northern Hemisphere. Therefore they are not considered tropical fruit. Aronia berries would not be indigenous to any regions where any tropical or Southern hemisphere bird is indigenous to.  This is more important than one might think due to the fact that Northern hemisphere fruits and vegetables typically produce different naturally occurring amino acid profiles as well as a different overall saccharide content than do Southern hemisphere fruits and vegetables.

“Aronia” is derived from the Greek word “medlar” meaning “small tree.”

Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Subfamily: Amygdaloideae
Tribe: Maleae
Subtribe: Malinae
Genus: Aronia

Other names this fruit may be known by are:
Black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
Purple chokeberry, Aronia prunifolia
Red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia


Some of the main constituents (chemical composition) in the aronia berry are: polyphenols expressly in the form of anthocyanins and procyanidins. These naturally occurring food chemicals were found to have specific qualities in the aronia berry. Known for their antioxidant properties these phenols potentially inhibit many types of cancer.

During scientific testing it was concluded these berries possessed the highest antioxidant ability among other berries and fruit, having the highest ORAC rating as of 2003 (this information has been upgraded as of 2010). In addition aronia berries are exceptionally high in quercetin.(3)  While quercetin in low doses acts as an anti-inflammatory consumed in larger amounts combined with Vitamin C in large amounts it actually becomes a pro-inflammatory. With all of the fruit and vegetable-like fruits exotic birds consume I do not recommend feeding foods high in quercetin. Quercetin can actually antagonize or trigger feather destruction in birds prone to this engagement.

Aronia is also high in tannins, another phenol. Again, in small amounts tannins act as antioxidants, but in high amounts they block the absorption of iron and prohibit the synthesizing of Vitamin B12.(4)

Let’s delve into the world of “ruminant” mammals for a moment in order to understand the synthesizing of Vitamin B12. Ruminants REQUIRE organic cobalt and glucose to synthesize Vitamin B12. (5) Without these two micro-elements in their diet they will suffer “failure to thrive” and eventually succumb to serious illness and probably die. Likewise exotic birds as aves, and a very special class of aves at that, even though they are not ruminants must synthesize B12 in their digestive tract. Without large amounts of glucose in their diet as one of the main “essential” monosaccharides of an exotic bird’s diet they will not synthesize Vitamin B12. Unfortunately in a scientific study aronia berries were found toinhibitthe absorption of glucose! (6) While this is good news for people who suffer from diabetes, this is not good news for exotic birds. Compound the blocking of iron with lack of synthesizing Vitamin B12 and this berry is not a good choice to feed our feathered friends. It is true that some species of exotic birds are prone to ISD (iron storage disease) and/or IOD (iron overload disease), but blocking the absorption of iron by feeding tannins over a long period of time, preventing the synthesizing of Vitamin B12 can be eventually be fatal. A bird can succumb to death due to anemia without warning to the caregiver never the wiser if specific blood tests are not rigorously performed.

Furthermore aronia berries are high in fructose, especially when compared to other fruits. (7)(8)  Fructose is on the list of “do not feed” in large quantity to exotic birds. Most of the U.S. domestic fruits are high in fructose. Exotic birds are not “domestic” aves, they are indigenous to other parts of the world were tropical fruit and tropical berries originate. Those types of fruit are low in fructose; we should be feeding naturally low-fructose fruits to our exotic feathered friends. This is why so often I place the word “exotic” in many of my articles, and do not use the word “domesticated”, because our companion feathered friends are truly wild-at-heart, exotic birds originating from exotic parts of the world requiring exotic foods, not “domestic” foods.

To note the seeds of the aronia berries as well as the leaves of the bush naturally contain prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide). During the hydrolysis process (breaking down in the digestive tract) this food constituent isliberatedendogenously (within). In amounts of < 1 mg/kg for adults it is known to be very poisonous. (9) This toxin causes difficulty in breathing, slow pulse, change in pupils, lack of coordination, and loss of consciousness before eventual death. (10)


The measurement of salicylates in aronia berries is unknown at this time, but it is believed to be high due to the high phenolic content.

I insert the level of salicylates here due to the fact I have found this naturally occurring food constituent/food chemical triggers barbering, cutting, picking, plucking, and self-mutilation in birds who engage in feather destruction. I have even witnessed salicylates causing anaphylactic shock in certain birds. When too many foods containing high amounts of salicylates are feed to any given bird “stacking” these foods can cause a cascade of health problems including, but not limited to itching, picking, plucking, barbering, self-mutilation, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, seizures, lethargy, internal hemorrhaging, and even death. Many OTC (over-the-counter avian remedies contain laboratory-produced salicylates as buffers, fillers, thickeners and extenders). “Salic acid”, which is the base of salicylates, is the primary ingredient in aspirin obtained from the Willow Tree, but all plant matter contains this naturally occurring constituent to differing degrees, some very high to others at lower amounts. Simply stated salic acid is a blood thinner.

In addition to the antioxidant benefits noted above the bark and roots of the aronia bush have been used in Native American medicine.

Ayurvedic properties of the aronia roots and bark include using the bark as a blood tonic, sedative, appetite stimulant and expectorant for the lungs. As an herb, the leaves are used for respiratory problems and as a nerve sedative. The bark has also been used to help with digestive disorders. (11)

Based on a 28 gram serving:
Calories 43.7
From Carbohydrate 38.0
From Fat 2.5

Protein 0.8g

Vitamin A 12.0IU
Vitamin C 0.2mg
Vitamin D 0.0IU
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.2mg
Vitamin K 8.2mcg
Thiamin 0.0mg
Riboflavin 0.0mg
Niacin 0.2mg
Vitamin B6 0.1mg
Folate 2.8mcg
Vitamin B12 0.0mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.1mg
Calcium 11.2mg
Iron 0.1mg
Magnesium 5.9mg
Phosphorus 12.6mg
Potassium 86.5mg
Sodium 0.6mg
Zinc 0.1mg
Copper 0.0mg
Manganese 0.1mg
Selenium 0.5mcg

Aronia berries do not have a good calcium to magnesium ratio. It is now well-established that the correct ratio should be 1:1 or minimum 2:1 respectively. Calcium requires magnesium to be properly absorbed an metabolized as much or more than Vitamin D. Without enough magnesium in the system calcification of all soft tissues including, but not limited to arteries may potentially occur leading to a cascade of health problems including, but not limited to cardiovascular disease, dementia, arthritis and more.

Fortunately potassium is not too high in aronia berries, but the level should still be considered when combining aronia berries with other high potassium foods. Potassium affects heart rhythm; too much “stacking” of potassium in the diet, even with fresh, raw foods and we can potentially cause stroke and/or heart attacks in our birds. This is not difficult to do considering the main staple foods in many of today’s diets for exotic birds are foods like “greens” containing very high amounts of potassium.

Aronia berries are a very good source of Vitamin K important for proper blood clotting and the transport of calcium throughout the body.
As previously mentioned aronia berries are exceedingly high in quercetin and tannins. Abnormally high amounts of quercetin, especially when paired with other foods similarly high in quercetin or high in Vitamin C become pro-inflammatory. In addition tannins, found in many foods of high phenolic content such as dark berries, herbs and teas block absorption of both heme and non-heme iron. Iron is required for energy production, delivering oxygen to organs, production of red blood cells, and to regenerate healthy skin, feathers, talons and beaks. Also tannins prohibit the synthesizing of Vitamin B12 in conjunction of the intrinsic factor utilizing the fermentation of glucose, which studies have shown aronia berries suppress glucose absorption in the first quarter of the ileum of the small digestive tract. (14) Therefore the presence of tannins, plus the suppression of glucose negatively affects the synthesizing of Vitamin B12 when aronia berries are consumed by exotic birds. Finally aronia berries are very high in fructose. Fructose is virtually an unnecessary carbohydrate for exotic birds. The monosaccharides necessary for exotic birds are those naturally found and indigenous to the very regions exotic birds originate. I term these “essential monosaccharides” consisting of 8 basic sugars I believe all living creatures require to thrive. None of those monosaccharides include fructose. In fact fructose raises the blood sugar levels far beyond what is necessary for the exotic bird’s metabolic system placing a strain on the overall endocrine system potentially giving rise to the near epidemic rise in avian diabetes we see today in avian aviculture.

The bottom line, aronia berries should not, in my opinion be fed to exotic birds on a regular basis, but only as a very optional and occasional treat. I would probably opt to feed one 450-500 gram bird one berry maybe two to three times per week at most. Regardless if that bird were a Psittaciforme, Piciforme or a Passeriforme I would greatly limit the amount of aronia berries my feathered friend ingested due to all of the above mentioned notations. While they may be excellent “human sources” of nutrition with more than ample anti-cancer properties, let us not confuse the human aspects of foods always with the same potential benefits for our exotic birds. What may be a benefit for humans may actually be detrimental to our feathered friends. Blocking iron absorption, prohibiting the synthesizing of Vitamin B12 in diets already lacking nutrition, preventing glucose absorption in creatures who require glucose for their high metabolic system to thrive is far from beneficial for this species regardless of the anti-cancer properties when there are so many other methods of preventing cancer in our companion birds.

ORAC Values:
USDA’s statement regarding the ORAC value:
Personally I believe this statement is “bunk” and I believe the antioxidant properties in foods do matter.
And of course here the USDA is contradicting themselves only years earlier:
For this reason I will supply the ORAC value of each food, herb and spice when available.
Total ORAC value of ashwagandha: 16062. (13)

Happy foraging!

Ref: (1); (2); (3); (4);(5); (6); (7); (8); (9); (10); (11); (12); (13) (14) Burgmann, Petra M. Feeding Your Pet Bird. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 1993. Print. "The first quarter of the ileum is the most important for the absorption of fats, carbohydrates and ingested proteins." Pg. 55

©2.13.16   Machelle Pacion   Passion Tree House LLC   All Rights Reserved
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