So, you’ve seen boutique-sized cafes sprouting up selling primarily Acai bowls, Acai Smoothies, or perhaps even Acai ice cream. Just what is this Acai craze about, and is it really a superfood we should be serving up?
First, let’s find out what Acai Berries are.
Pronounced “ah-sigh-EE”, these berries hail from the Amazon region, where they have long been a staple diet of native tribes. Harvested from Acai palm trees, these dark purple colored grape-sized berries are actually drupes, with yellow flesh surrounding a pit.
Before being eaten, they are first soaked to be softened, then mashed into a paste. Freshly eaten, some claim it has a taste similar to unsweetened chocolate. In powdered form, some say it tastes like raspberries or pomegranates. Fresh, frozen or powdered, its amazing taste has aided in its popularity as a superfood, compared to the likes of some other health food.
So what makes this berry a superfood?
Acai berries are low in sugar and high in fat – good fat – omega 3s, 6s and 9s. These fats help:
Acai berries are super packed with antioxidants. Our bodies need antioxidants to help fight free radicals within us. Too many free radicals will cause harm to our bodies, damaging cells and leading to multiple illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
Berries, in general, are known to be a great source of antioxidants and are amongst the healthiest food to add to your diet. The antioxidant level in Acai berries have been found to outweigh other berries. Its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score, which is what measures the antioxidant content in foods, is 3 times that of blueberries. A large portion of its antioxidant type – anthocyanins - has shown positive research results in preventing diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
As we age, our brains also start to slow down like our bodies. However, the antioxidants in Acai berries have been found to reduce the development of beta-amyloid, a microscopic brain protein fragment that messes up the connection between brain cells, as a result preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Consuming Acai berries has shown to help the brain stay healthy, while developing new nerves, hence creating and allowing continued communication between brain cells.
Besides being high in antioxidants, Acai berries are also packed with vitamins for the skin – A, C and E. Own any skincare products that promote anti-aging? Take a quick glance and you’ll find these vitamins as part of the ingredients.
While you are unlikely to get fresh Acai Berries here as they do not last long in that state, you can still find it in its frozen fruit puree form or dried powder.
So, to get or not to get that Acai Bowl?
If you are allergic to pollen or berries, you might want to tread with caution as this might trigger your allergic reaction.
Also, as with all kinds of food, moderation in consumption is advised. Despite all the benefits of Acai Berries, what we consume them with affects how healthy our dish of Acai Berries becomes. For example, adding too much sugar into a Acai Bowl or high fat ice cream into a Acai smoothie may turn them into high fat/sugar treats which can lead to weight gain and other complications if eaten often and in large amounts.
Therefore, go ahead to add the super Acai Berry to your diet but start small; and if you like the taste, make the dish on your own at home so that you decide which other healthy ingredient goes into your bowl (or drink). Enjoy!