Acai berries have been the subject of much mainstream attention in recent years and even made it into Oprah Winfrey’s much-publicised ‘Top 10 Superfoods’ list. But just what is it that makes this amazing little berry from the Amazon so special? In this article you’re going to discover the incredible health benefits of the acai berry, find out how to incorporate this potent superfood into your diet and learn what to look out for when purchasing it for the very first time.
Acai – the boys from Brazil
Acai are tiny, blue/ purple berries that grow on the acai palm (Euterpe Oleracea) – a tree native to the tropical plains and riverbanks of the Amazonian rainforests of Brazil and other parts of South and Central America. Their exceptionally high nutritional content and outstanding range of health benefits has made them an extremely popular source of food and medicine for local indigenous populations for centuries.
The myriad health benefits of acai
Rich in vitamin E and calcium, acai berries also boast a particularly powerful combination of antioxidants, fibre and essential fatty acids, that when enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, provide a number of important benefits for both our health and longevity.
Acai berries are literally teeming with blue-pigmented antioxidants, affording them an unusually high ORAC score (ORAC is short for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) – indeed, acai berries have an even higher ORAC rating than blueberries, pomegranates and red grapes. This super-charged ability to combat free radicals makes acai berries highly effective in promoting longevity. Recent research has clearly demonstrated that acai berries can help to regenerate and manufacture stem cells, meaning we are able to heal and rejuvenate much more quickly and live longer as a result.
Strengthening the immune system
Acai berries are rich in a large variety of amino acids that support both muscle growth and recovery and help to improve our muscle strength and endurance. In addition, these prized amino acids help us to detox and boost our immune system.
Reducing the risk of cancer
The abundance of omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids in acai berries lowers our risk of developing certain types of cancer. Acai berries also contain beta-sitosterol, which promotes a healthy urinary tract and prostate by inhibiting the absorption of excessive animal food based cholesterol. Acai is thus particularly recommended for the prevention of prostate enlargement. And a recent study by the University of Florida, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, revealed that acai berry extract could destroy up to 86 per cent of leukaemia cells.
Preventing heart disease
Acai berries are extremely high in anthocyanins, a form of plant antioxidant that can help reduce our cholesterol levels. They also contain plant sterols that help prevent the formation of blood clots and relax our blood vessels to improve our overall circulation. Not only that, the large quantities of antioxidants in acai berries render free radicals harmless and protect our cells from oxidative damage and disease, ultimately reducing our risk of chronic heart disease as well as cancer.
Fighting viruses and parasites
Scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro have proven that regular consumption of acai extract can help combat both viral and parasitic infections.
Encouraging weight loss
Acai berries are ranked extremely low on the glycaemic index and contain very low amounts of sugar for a fruit. Their high fibre and essential fatty acid content promotes a prolonged feeling of fullness and simultaneously helps us to process food more quickly, reduce our sugar cravings and speed up our metabolism, making these delicious berries perfect for those trying to lose weight.
Acai berries are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
Introducing acai into your diet can result in a demonstrable increase in energy levels and stamina, and will help combat fatigue and exhaustion. Brazilians refer to the acai berry as the ‘Viagra of the Amazon’, due to its celebrated ability to support and sustain sexual energy, whilst many athletes consider acai an essential addition to their eating regime.
Promoting healthy skin
Brazilians have been eating acai berries for centuries in order to treat a range of skin conditions and the oleic acid contained within the berries is known to promote both a healthy radiance and a decidedly youthful complexion.
Enhancing mental clarity
Preliminary research has indicated that eating acai berries can actively boost mental clarity and may help to address mental imbalance in menopausal women.
Enjoying acai berries
Due to the acai fruit’s natural perishability, acai berries are usually freeze-dried and sold in powdered form. The powder can be stirred readily into smoothies, shakes and juices or added to your favourite raw chocolate, cakes, and ice cream. You can even try sprinkling it directly onto your breakfast granola or lunchtime soup.
Buying acai berries
Always look for organic acai berry powder that has been prepared from berries cultivated in a sustainable manner. This ensures that local farmers benefit from a profitable livelihood that doesn’t negatively impact the Amazon rainforest. It’s also important to make sure that your acai powder was freeze dried within just a few hours of being picked, to guarantee that it retains optimum levels of antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.