Whether you like berries or apples, oranges or melons, lemons or limes, there’s no doubt that fruit is one of nature’s most wonderful foods. Full of disease-fighting compounds, fruit is the world’s sweetest medicine. And throughout this summer, you’ve probably had fruit on your mind—whether it’s snacking on a delicious bowl of berries or putting some into a summertime smoothie.
My favorite fruit is one you may have never come across: Citrus bergamot. I love it because this fruit, which is grown primarily in Calabria, Italy, has amazing powers to help keep you healthy and restore youthfulness. That power lies the polyphenols that it contains.
Citrus bergamot isn’t quite a household name yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy its amazing benefits. In fact, I would encourage you to learn a lot about it, because it’s one of the most powerful foods I have ever come across. Here are the top things you should know about this special and unique citrus fruit. Maybe it’s time for a new mantra: “Citrus bergamot every day will keep the doctor away.”
10 Facts About Bergamot
- It activates autophagy. In fact, that’s the reason why I went bananas for it. Autophagy is the process that allows your cells to repair themselves and help keep you young. There are several things you can do to activate autophagy (like getting enough restful sleep and engaging in rigorous exercise.) Adding citrus bergamot to your diet is one of the few nutritional ways you can do so.[*][*][*]
- It smells so good. It’s a combination of a bitter orange and a lemon. And that wonderful scent alone can boost your mood. And research shows that a positive mood has positive health benefits. This certainly helps with relieving chronic stress. And when that happens, your body is better able to do what it naturally wants to do—feel its best, look its best, and have the energy it needs. Citrus bergamot is used in perfumes, creams, lotions, and soaps, as well as a citrus flavoring agent, especially in gelatins and puddings.
- It helps to lower cholesterol. Have you ever been told that your cholesterol profile is not where it needs to be? I remember the very first time this happened to me. I was in my late 20s, and I couldn’t believe my cholesterol profile was not where it should be. Citrus bergamot works by balancing your good cholesterol, the HDL level, while helping to naturally reduce the bad cholesterol, your LDL.[*] There are so many drugs out there that work to reduce our LDL with tons of side effects. I can’t tell you how many people write to me all the time about the side effects. Citrus bergamot is a natural way to reduce the size of the LDL particle, making it smaller, fluffier and lighter, so it’s not as dense (meaning that it’s less likely to clog up your arteries). That’s what this little fruit can do.[*][*]
Polyphenols, especially flavonoids like the ones found in bergamot, can improve overall cardiovascular health. For example, a review of studies showed that the flavonoids found in bergamot can increase good HDL levels and reduce triglyceride levels in the liver.[*][*] Researchers have found that compounds extracted from the peel act in a similar way to statins (a drug that’s used to reduce cholesterol).[*] Another study shows that citrus bergamot led to 30-percent reduction in bad cholesterol and a 40-percent increase in good cholesterol, as well as a 40-percent drop in triglycerides and a 20-percent decrease in blood glucose.[*]
- It has more antioxidant properties than any other citrus fruit in the world. That’s important because oxidative stress is linked to many diseases and problems, such as heart disease, inflammation, arthritis, and symptoms of aging. The antioxidants in bergamot (technically, citrus bergamia) have an effect on scavenging the free radicals caused by oxidative stress.[*][*] They do this by absorbing and neutralizing the free radical. Citrus bergamot has two polyphenols that are particularly effective against oxidative stress and inflammation: melitidin and brutieridin.[*]
- The people in Calabria, Italy, use it for breakfast, makes teas out of it, and make a supplement from it. Historically, Italians used it to treat problems related to digestion, skin health, and fevers. And in Ayurvedic medicine, bergamot oil was used to reduce acne, skin rashes, sore throats, bladder infections, depression, eczema, gas—and even compulsive behaviors.
- An easy way for you to get it is through earl grey tea. (please verify that the tea is made with real bergamot extract, as opposed to synthetic fragrances, which have zero therapeutic effect). I drink this tea all the time, and I not only love the taste, but also love that I know it is having such a positive effect on my body—and helping keep me young.
- You can also get it in supplement form. Look for one that supplies 500 mg of bergamot, the equivalent of what you would get by eating one fruit. For maximum benefits, take bergamot twice a day for 60–90 days, reevaluate your lipid levels, and adjust your dose accordingly.
- It may even help with weight loss. Some research indicates that it helps lower the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome (indicated by a cluster of symptoms, like obesity and high blood pressure, that put your body at risk). It improves the health and function of your blood vessels, allowing your body to function more efficiently. That’s good for your overall health and lowering risk factors associated with being overweight.[*][*][*]
- It takes about 100 citrus bergamot fruits to produce just 3 ounces of bergamot oil.
- It will always be one of my favorite things to learn about, because citrus bergamot taught me my first lessons about autophagy and the body’s ability to repair itself and slow the aging process. And I am forever grateful to Dr. Elzbieta Janda, who introduced me to citrus bergamot and it’s many life-changing benefits.