Acai Berry: How Healthy Is It?
If you’re a health connoisseur or fruit lover, you’ve likely heard of the acai berry, or at least an acai bowl, by now. The acai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is considered a Brazilian superfruit, according to Healthline; but it has recently gained more widespread popularity and notoriety for its purported health benefits — and for its starring role as a cult-favorite health food, the acai bowl.
What Is Acai?
As stated, the acai berry is native to the Amazon region, where it’s considered a superfood. According to Healthline, acai berries are 1-inch, round fruits that grow on acai palm trees in the rainforests of Central and South America. They have dark purple skin and yellow flesh surrounding a large seed, which constitutes about 80% of the fruit.
Medical News Today states that the taste of acai berries has been described as a blend of chocolate and berries, with a slight metallic aftertaste. And although it’s called an acai berry, it technically is not a berry — this is because the acai berry contains pits like apricots and olives, so it’s actually considered a drupe. However, they’re still commonly referred to as berries.
According to WebMD, “some studies show that acai fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries.” People eat them for their various reported health benefits, although acai fruit currently has no known health benefit that’s different from that of other fruits.
Acai Berry Nutrition Facts
As with many other fruits, the acai berry is chock full of nutritional value. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one 3-gram teaspoon of acai berry powder contains:
- 20 calories
- 0g protein
- 1.5g total fat
- 1g carbohydrate
- 1g fiber
- 6mg calcium
Acai powder contains very little protein, but the berries contain 19 amino acids and several sterols, such as campesterol, stigmasterol, and beta-sitosterol. Medical News Today adds that the phytochemicals in acai berries include mainly anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, and acai berries are rich in fatty acids.
The acai berry benefits don’t stop there, either. They contain vital antioxidants, which are believed to help protect the body against various diseases. Antioxidants neutralize oxidative damage caused by environmental stressors like pollution. Acai benefits also include the fruit’s high levels of fiber and heart-healthy fats.
Acai Berry Benefits
The acai fruit is reported to be beneficial to a person’s health and wellbeing, and it may help in the following categories.
Vitamins and Minerals
Acai berries are somewhat high in fat and low in sugar, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals for optimal health benefits. According to Healthline, 100 grams of frozen acai fruit pulp has 15% of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin A, as well as 2% of the RDI for calcium.
According to a Venezuelan study, acai berries also contain some other trace minerals, such as chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Antioxidants, in general, are great for the health of your eyes, and the surplus of antioxidants found in acai berries are no exception. Antioxidants can assist in preserving your vision, especially as you begin to age, and the fruit also might help protect against the formation of cataracts and general macular degeneration.
While there currently is not much research specifically on how acai berries impact blood pressure, they are known to help with preventing heart disease and lowering cholesterol. Healthline states that some animal studies have suggested that acai could help improve cholesterol levels by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol.
“While more research is needed, it’s possible that the anthocyanins in acai could be responsible for their positive impact on cholesterol levels since studies have linked this plant compound to improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol,” according to Healthline.
And according to Medical News Today, The National Center for Complementary and Integrative and Health (NCCIH) says that “consuming acai berries may help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with excess weight.”
Because acai berries are low in sugar, they’re generally a safer fruit for people with diabetes to consume. Acai has a low score on the glycemic index, and it also has low lipid levels. Acai juice can be a healthy option to maintain steady glucose levels. However, beware of acai bowls and purees with added sugars.
Because fiber is an essential part of digestion and acai berries are high in it, the fruit can help cleanse the body’s digestive system to keep hazardous toxins from accumulating. Fiber — and, in turn, acai fruit that is dense in it — can act as a natural cleanser for intestine and colon to fight constipation and other digestive complications.
Antioxidants are great for both your insides and your outside appearance, too. Healthy Focus writes that “either consuming acai berries or applying them topically can help improve your skin’s overall health, repair damaged skin cells, and reverse the signs of aging.” This includes wrinkles, crow’s feet, dry skin, and other blemishes.
Other Acai Benefits
While the aforementioned listed are among the most significant purported benefits of acai berries, many people report that acai can also boost brain function, aid with controlling weight, and improve the health and appearance of hair, too.
How to Eat Spinach
Here’s a trick if you know that spinach is good for you and that you should be eating it, but aren’t in love with the taste — incorporate it with frozen acai and create a delicious, healthy acai bowl for added health and nutrition benefits.
Acai Berry Powder
Although not as common a form of the acai fruit, acai powder has excellent content of some essential nutrients. However, unlike the usual frozen puree form the acai fruit comes in here in the United States, acai berry powder isn’t ideal to be practically used without other fruits and ingredients.
The powder is produced from the original berry using special freeze-drying processes, and although freeze-drying does destroy some of the nutrients and natural plant chemicals, acai powder is notably rich in dietary fiber, calcium, iron and vitamin E.
Although not as common a form of the acai fruit as the frozen puree, acai juice also is rich in all of the antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the berry itself carries. Beware of added sugars, which cut down on overall nutritional value.
What Is an Acai Bowl?
One of the most popular ways to eat acai berries is in an acai bowl, in which puréed acai berries are garnished with a variety of toppings, such as sliced bananas, strawberries, and granola. Acai berries are grown primarily in Central and South America and are highly perishable, though, so the berries are not readily available here in the United States.
However, pulped and flash-frozen berries are available in the frozen foods section of your grocery store. They are perfect for creating an acai bowl base. Costco also sells acai bowls made fresh in its food court for only $5.
Be mindful of acai bowl calories, though, as they can have upward of 350 calories.
In general, the acai berry is a healthy, nutrient-dense fruit packed with antioxidants and other health benefits that can positively impact a person’s overall wellbeing. As with any other food item on the market, just beware of added sugars, fats, and other ingredients that might take away from the nutritional value.