Acai berries are a highly nutritious fruit, coming from the acai palm tree (Euterpe oleracea Mart). It grows in Peru, Belize, and Brazil. Thus, local people of this Amazon basin region rely on acai berries as an important part of their diet.
The fruit tastes earthy and sweet, somewhat like a dark blackberry. Since it has a limited shelf life, it is usually sold in powdered, frozen, or pressed form. Further, acai is a perishable pitted fruit, like an apricot or a peach. So, it is not technically a berry.
Why should you eat acai berries? Because there are many health benefits to eating acai berries! Read on!
Eat acai berries for the nutritional benefits!
This dark purple super fruit is high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Plus some protein and mono-unsaturated fat (as found in avocados) make it an excellent food. According to the USDA, National Nutrient Database, acai berries are a good source of the following:
Vitamins A, E and C
Minerals, including: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus
Antioxidants; even more than found in blueberries and cranberries
Eat acai berries for good health!
Why are acai berries such the superfood craze these days? These fruit are very anthocyanin rich. Anthocyanins are a well studied antioxidant component found to help increase heart health. Further, colorful berries are considered an important part of a healthy diet, offering improvement in cholesterol, total plasma antioxidant capacity, reduced fat, and greater glucose metabolism (Basu, Rhone, and Lyons, 2010). In addition, research indicates that berry anthocyanins help prevent degenerative diseases, improve cognitive brain functions, and more (Zafra-Stone, et al, 2007). Listed below, are a few acai studies to consider.
Improved Glucose and Cholesterol Levels
In a small study, 10 overweight adults took 100 grams of acai pulp twice a day for a month. Then, results showed their cholesterol and glucose levels were reduced (Udani, Singh, Singh, and Barret, 2011). In another study of 31 pre-hypertensive men, they took 640 mg of anthocyanin daily over 4 weeks. Then, measurements showed significantly increased good HDL cholesterol levels (Hassellund et al, 2013).
Increased Heart Health
Foods high in antioxidants can help fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals can lead to heart disease. Further, intake of acai berry supplements has shown a hypertensive effect in vivo (Rocha, et al, 2008). In addition, acai berries, rich in plant sterols, may help vasodilate and relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure (Rocha, et al, 200&).
Antioxidants can Help Fight Diseases
Foods rich in antioxidants may help fight off diseases like cancer. Berries, colorful due to their polyphenol content, are packed with cancer preventive constituents (Seeram, 2008). Absorption is important. For example, acai berry antioxidant absorption was demonstrated in a small human study. Plasma antioxidant capacity was increased 2-3 times after people ate anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Mertens et al, 2008).
Plants high in vitamin C are known immunity boosters. Acai contains a good source of vitamin C. Plus, polysaccharides found in acai fruit were shown to induced a significant immune response in vitro (Holderness, et al, 2011).
Anti-Inflammatory / Pain Reducing Action
Flavonoids from acai showed anti-inflammatory activities (Kang, et al, 2011). In a study of 14 patients with osteo-arthritis pain, eating acai berry pulp over 12 weeks had an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. Further, it reduced pain, and increased range of motion (Jensen, et al, 2011).
Increased Physical and Mental Performance
Acai berry juice improved athletic performance measures in elite athletes (Carvalho-Peixoto, et al, 2015). Plus, acai berry pulp seems to have a protective effect on brain cells, which could improve cognition and motor functions (Poulose, et al, 2012).
While more human studies are needed to further exemplify these findings, acai fruit shows great promise as a healthy superfood!
Try starting off your day with an Acai Berry Smoothie. Mix acai, with other frozen berries, your favorite milk, a scoop of protein powder, and sneak in a piece of dark chocolate. Then blend in your high powered blender. Finally, drink to good health!
Acai Smoothie Recipe
1 cup of frozen blueberries
About 1 ounce of acai juice, or 1 Tbsp of acai powder, or 1 tsp of dried acai berries
1 cup of milk (non-dairy, low fat, or milk type of choice)
2 ounces of dark chocolate
1 cup of water
First, mix it all together. Then you have a drink for good health!
Basu, A., Rhone, M., & Lyons, T. J. (2010). Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutrition reviews, 68(3), 168-177.
Carvalho-Peixoto, J., Moura, M. R. L., Cunha, F. A., Lollo, P. C. B., Monteiro, W. D., Carvalho, L. M. J. D., & Farinatti, P. D. T. V. (2015). Consumption of açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) functional beverage reduces muscle stress and improves effort tolerance in elite athletes: a randomized controlled intervention study. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism
Hassellund, S. S., Flaa, A., Kjeldsen, S. E., Seljeflot, I., Karlsen, A., Erlund, I., & Rostrup, M. (2013). Effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in pre-hypertensive men: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. Journal of human hypertension, 27(2), 100.
Holderness, J., Schepetkin, I. A., Freedman, B., Kirpotina, L. N., Quinn, M. T., Hedges, J. F., & Jutila, M. A. (2011). Polysaccharides isolated from Acai fruit induce innate immune responses. Jensen, G. S., Ager, D. M., Redman, K. A., Mitzner, M. A., Benson, K. F., & Schauss, A. G. (2011). Pain reduction and improvement in range of motion after daily consumption of an açai (euterpe oleracea mart.) pulp–fortified polyphenolic-rich fruit and berry juice blend. Journal of medicinal food(7-8), 702-711.
Kang, J., Xie, C., Li, Z., Nagarajan, S., Schauss, A. G., Wu, T., & Wu, X. (2011). Flavonoids from acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Food Chemistry(1), 152-157.
Mertens-Talcott, S. U., Rios, J., Jilma-Stohlawetz, P., Pacheco-Palencia, L. A., Meibohm, B., Talcott, S. T., & Derendorf, H. (2008). Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 56(17), 7796-7802.
More References – Because We Just Can’t Get Enough of Them
Poulose, S. M., Fisher, D. R., Larson, J., Bielinski, D. F., Rimando, A. M., Carey, A. N., … & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2012). Anthocyanin-rich açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) fruit pulp fractions attenuate inflammatory stress signaling in mouse brain BV-2 microglial cells. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry(4), 1084-1093.
Rocha, A. P. M., Resende, A. C., Souza, M. A. V., Carvalho, L. C. R. M., Sousa, P. J. C., Tano, T., … & Soares De Moura, R. (2008). Antihypertensive effects and antioxidant action of a hydro-alcoholic extract obtained from fruits of Euterpe oleracea Mart.(Açaí). J Pharmacol Toxicol, 3(6), 435-448.
Rocha, A. P. M., Carvalho, L. C. R. M., Sousa, M. A. V., Madeira, S. F., Sousa, P. J. C., Tano, T., … & De Moura, R. S. (2007). Endothelium-dependent vasodilator effect of Euterpe oleracea Mart.(Acai) extracts in mesenteric vascular bed of the rat. Vascular Pharmacology, 46(2), 97-104.
Seeram, N. P. (2008). Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry(3), 630-635.
Udani, J. K., Singh, B. B., Singh, V. J., & Barrett, M. L. (2011). Effects of Acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: a pilot study. Nutrition journal (1), 45.
Zafra‐Stone, S., Yasmin, T., Bagchi, M., Chatterjee, A., Vinson, J. A., & Bagchi, D. (2007). Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Molecular nutrition & food research, 51(6), 675-683.
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA (ARC), Professional NAHA and AIA Member, LMT