Acai berries have been both a hot topic and the subject of some major health claims of late, having been cleverly marketed as the answer to weight loss, sexual dysfunction and even a longer life! Yet whilst many of the more outrageous claims are of course exaggerated, there are still many potential benefits to be enjoyed from incorporating organic acai powder into your daily diet, and this exotic superfood shouldn’t be dismissed as merely another hype.
So…isn’t it about time you separated fact from fiction and got the truth about organic acai powder?
All about organic acai powder
Organic acai powder is a superfood extract made from the dried berries of the acai palm (Euterpe Oleracea) – a tall, slender tree that thrives in the swamps and floodplains of central and South America, where the fruit forms an integral part of the local diet, especially for the Caboclo people of the Brazilian Amazon. According to a 2008 report in the Los Angeles Times, the acai tree is particularly suited to sustainable cultivation that doesn’t negatively impact the Amazon rainforest, and the acai palm has a number of important uses – its leaves for example are made into hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roofing for homes, whilst its hardy trunk, which is pest-resistant, is typically used in construction.
Its small berries, which measure between 2 and 3 cm in diameter and boast a striking deep purple colour, are extraordinarily rich in antioxidants and have a higher ORAC score (ORAC stands for ‘Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity’ and relates to the absorption of free radicals) even than blueberries, pomegranates and red grapes. They are dried into a nutrient-dense powder that possesses a unique flavour that’s often likened to a combination of red wine and chocolate, and is literally loaded with beneficial nutrients including:
- Fibre – which, according to the NHS, can improve your digestive health and help to prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and certain types of cancer.
- Vitamin A – also known as retinol, vitamin A is essential for both scotopic (vision under low light conditions) and colour vision, and is particularly helpful in treating skin disorders, such as acne, and combatting viruses, including measles, respiratory viruses, and HIV.
- Calcium – which not only helps to build strong teeth and bones, but also helps to regulate muscle contractions, ensure that blood clots normally and may help to lower blood pressure.
- Amino acids – the building blocks of protein that also play an important role in metabolism. Amino acids support muscle growth and recovery and can help to improve muscle strength and endurance.
- Beta-sitosterol – a substance that occurs naturally in a variety of foods and is available as a dietary supplement that’s used as a remedy for a number of different ailments. Beta-sitosterol encourages both a healthy urinary tract and prostate, and recent research indicates that it can also help in the treatment of certain types of cancer.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids – including omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids, as well as oleic acid, a healthy fat that helps to promote radiant, problem-free skin.
- Anthocyanins – which are responsible for the red, purple or blue colour of many fruit and vegetables, and have a powerful antioxidant effect that actively protects your cells from oxidative damage and disease.
De-myth-ifying organic acai powder – 5 common acai health claims put into perspective
With such an impressive nutritional profile, it would be hard not to conclude that organic acai powder is beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing. Not surprisingly there have been a wealth of health claims associated with organic acai powder, five of which are scrutinised in more detail below.
Health claim number 1 – organic acai powder promotes longevity
Although a regular serving of organic acai powder won’t guarantee you eternal life, its high concentrations of antioxidants can help to significantly slow down the ageing process. In fact, scientific research has suggested that acai berries may actually help to manufacture and regenerate stem cells (the embryo cells that transform into any cell required by your body), thus allowing you to heal and rejuvenate more quickly, and live longer as a result. Interestingly, a study by researchers at the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M University published in 2008, claims that acai berries possess the highest antioxidant activity to date against a certain type of free radical, making them an excellent guard against degenerative illnesses, such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.
Organic acai powder is also one of the most effective natural skin treatments that not only combats unpleasant skin conditions and inflammation; it also helps to prevent some of the more visible signs of aging, such as unwanted fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, its antioxidants render harmless the free radicals that arise from exposure to toxic food, radiation and pollution, and are especially efficient at fighting superoxide, the free radical that can damage the collagen and elastin proteins, which keep our skin strong and healthy.
Health claim number 2 – organic acai powder boosts immunity
Whilst consuming a daily portion of organic acai berry powder rich in antioxidants won’t necessarily prevent you from ever falling ill, it will help your body to gently detox, simultaneously increasing your natural immunity to common colds and flu, as well as a variety of contemporary illnesses and chronic diseases. A study by researchers at the University of Florida and published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, demonstrated that, due to its high concentrations of anthocyanins, acai berry extract can help to destroy up to 86 percent of leukaemia cells when applied directly over a 24-hour period. And organic acai berry powder contains a polysaccharide called ‘arabinogalactan’ that is known to induce T cell activity and help the body to fight infections, and which researchers at the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Montana State University believe has “implications for the treatment of asthma and infectious disease.”
Acai berries also contain beta-sitosterol, which ensures a healthy urinary tract and prostate by limiting the absorption of animal food based cholesterol, and means that organic acai powder is helpful in preventing an enlarged prostate.
Health claim number 3 – organic acai powder encourages rapid weight loss
The promotion of acai products has been aggressively targeted towards those specifically trying to lose weight and there are countless websites claiming that the superfood will help you to shed pounds in super quick time. The truth is, however, that the inclusion of acai powder in your diet in isolation will not result in tangible weight loss. As part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle (that includes plenty of exercise) on the other hand, the fat-burning properties of organic acai powder can be harnessed for real and sustainable weight reduction. That’s because organic acai powder ranks extremely low on the glycaemic index and contains surprisingly small quantities of sugar for a fruit extract. Its exceptionally high fibre content (which helps to absorb water in the colon) also helps you to feel fuller for longer, process your food more quickly, reduce your sugar cravings and ultimately speed up your metabolism. Lastly the energy-boosting properties of organic acai powder explored in the next section can help to improve both the quality and duration of your favourite exercise regime.
Health claim number 4 – organic acai powder increases energy levels
It’s not for no reason that the Brazilians call acai the ‘Viagra of the Amazon’ – indeed its celebrated ability to support and sustain (sexual) energy is backed by science – organic acai powder contains generous quantities of amino acids, important sources of energy which help to promote muscle performance, energy production, stamina and strength – and many top-performing athletes consider it an essential sports supplement.
Consuming organic acai berry powder on a regular basis can help you to combat fatigue and exhaustion and will leave you raring to go in more ways than one!
Health claim number 5 – organic acai powder improves heart health
Although further research is still required, pilot studies suggest that organic acai powder may be beneficial for your heart. According to director of the Nutritional Science Research Institute, Jack F Bukowski MD, PhD, the “daily consumption of pure organic sugar-free Acai reduces cholesterol and several markers of metabolic syndrome associated with increased risk of diabetes, and stroke”. Acai berries are extremely high in anthocyanins, a plant antioxidant that is known to reduce cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol from sticking to artery walls and causing them to narrow. It also contains plant sterols, which can help to prevent the formation of blood clots and relax blood vessels, subsequently improving overall blood circulation and demonstrably reducing your risk of heart disease.
Adding acai powder to your daily diet
Always choose an organic acai powder as the berries they’re made from will have been cultivated in a sustainable manner and dried at low temperatures (usually within hours of harvesting) to ensure a maximum retention of nutrients. Organic acai powder can be stirred directly into all of your favourite smoothies, shakes, protein drinks and juices and this versatile superfood extract can also be used as a delicious additional ingredient in a selection of rawfood snacks and meals.