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!
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:
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.
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).
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&).
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).
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).
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!
First, mix it all together. Then you have a drink for good health!
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA (ARC), Professional NAHA and AIA Member, LMT