Over the past two decades, numerous foods have emerged as being rich in key nutrients, contributing to improved health and preventing disease and thereby have been dubbed as “superfoods”. Several fruits feature prominently as superfoods, with popular bounties being strawberries, apples, kiwis, grapes, peaches, but one lesser known bounty that also possesses an excellent nutritional profile and delivers outstanding health benefits is acai berries.
Acai berries have gained popularity since the 1990s and have been introduced in many countries across the globe, but these tiny dark blue to black bounties have in fact been consumed by the native people the Amazon rainforests of South America – where the fruit grows naturally - for thousands of years. These minuscule fruits comprise a treasure trove of nutrients that confer magical curative properties in reducing cholesterol, improving heart health and even boosting sexual wellness in men and women, being a natural aphrodisiac.
Today, acai berries are available worldwide, as the ripe fruit as well as frozen and powdered forms and are used in preparing juices, smoothies, fruit salads, breakfast bowls or simply consumed as such, to procure the marvellous wellness incentives they provide for boosting health.
The Acai Berry Plant:
Acai berries are the fruit of the acai palm tree, scientifically designated as Euterpe oleracea and belonging to the Arecaceae i.e. palm botanical family. Native to the Amazon rainforests of South America, acai berries are widely grown around the world since the 1990s, for their spectacular nutritional profile and health benefits.
The acai palm is a tall, lean tree growing up to a height of more than 25 m i.e. 82 feet, with pinnate leaves that are bright green, slender and arranged in a feather-like manner. Although the fruit is called acai berry, it is essentially a drupe that is small, round and dark bluish-black in colour, with a single large seed in the center. The acai berry fruits resemble a grape, but a slightly smaller and have less fleshy pulp in the interior layers. Acai berries are subtly sweet in taste, being a bit tart with an earthy flavour and taste quite pleasant when eaten as the fully ripened fruit.
While acai berries naturally thrive in tropical wet climates in swamps, floodplains in forested areas of South America, they are grown in warm regions of North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa today, owing to their amazing nutrition content. They are extensively sold as the dried fruit powder and frozen acai berry fruits in markets, besides as the ripe produce, and are promoted as a superfood for enhancing health and wellness.
Acai Berry Nutrition:
The nutrition content in 100 grams of frozen fruit pulp of acai berries, according to scientific research studies, is as follows:
Fat: 5 grams
Saturated fat: 1.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 4 grams
Sugar: 2 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Vitamin A: 15% of the RDI
Calcium: 2% of the RDI
Furthermore, acai berries also supply vitamin C, B vitamins, besides pivotal trace minerals of zinc, copper, chromium, manganese, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous, for optimal overall health.
The wealth of phytonutrients i.e. plant-based compounds in acai berries include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids. These powerful organic constituents possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties, that safeguard the system from chronic illnesses of diabetes, hypertension, cancer, dementia and augment physical fitness and mental wellness.
Health Benefits Of Acai Berry:
Boosts Immune System
Consuming a small portion of acai berries will satisfy the daily vitamin C requirement in healthy adults. Vitamin C not only functions in enhancing iron absorption for enhanced blood circulation, but also works to improve immunity by white blood cells in the system. In addition, vitamin C is obligatory for growth and development of all body tissues and a key antioxidant for removing toxins from the system.
Maintains Heart Health
Being intrinsically high in potassium levels, acai berry assists in the maintenance of normal blood pressure. It also functions in promoting cardiac muscle activity, lowers the amounts of bad LDL cholesterol and raises levels of good HDL cholesterol. Acai berry is very advantageous in preventing instances of heart attacks and stroke and thereby contributes to a longer and healthier lifespan.
Relaxes Muscle Cramps
Acai berry is bestowed with the key mineral for optimal muscle function – magnesium. The significantly high magnesium content in these tiny fruits makes it an ideal option to provide relief from muscle sores and cramps. Moreover, post a high intensity workout, when muscles in the arms and legs are strained, eating the acai berry fruit can instantly alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Acai berry comprises valuable dietary fibers which ensure proper bowel movement upon ingestion of heavy meals. This is crucial to regulate kidney function and filter out all the toxic waste products upon digestion of food and assimilation of required nutrients. It also efficiently relieves intestinal conditions like constipation and indigestion.
The calcium present in acai berries is absorbed by bones in the body, thereby helping to maintain optimal bone density for day-to-day functions and flexible, unobstructed movement. The very high potassium content in these bounties complements bone health by enhancing mineral uptake by cells and tissues in the body.
Uplifts Kidney Functions
Acai berry offers profuse amounts of vitamin C that confers anti-inflammatory properties to reduce swelling in the bladder, which is more common in women than men. Also, its antioxidant capabilities are useful in removing detrimental free radicals and harmful bacteria from the body. This in turn helps to avoid oxidation of the healthy cells in the excretory system organs, thus ensuring proper elimination of wastes and unnecessary food residues from the body and preventing their accumulation in the system.
Helps Cure Anemia
Vitamin C also performs one very vital function in the human body which is of enhancing the absorption of iron from ingested food. Deficiency in iron quantities leads to a condition known as anemia wherein there is a lack of adequate red blood cells in the body to transport nutrients and oxygen to all cells and tissues. Eating acai berry fruits will guarantee ample uptake of iron, from foods, into the system and promote red blood cell synthesis and blood passage.
Acai berries are a storehouse of anthocyanin, polyphenol and carotenoid antioxidants. These potent plant compounds work in synergy to avert the proliferation of tumours in the cells, tissues and prevents cancers from developing in vital internal organs of the lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines. Moreover, the richness of antioxidants in acai berries shields healthy cells in the body from oxidative damage by detrimental free radicals, flushing out toxins and cleansing the system.
Reduces Skin Inflammation
Acai berry contains several essential amino acids that help to build healthy skin cells and also suppress any redness and swelling that tends to develop on skin exposed to harsh environmental states. Its high flavonoid content provides antioxidants traits to assist in combating free radical damage, diminish acne, scars and dark spots and lessen skin irritation.
Offers Anti-Aging Benefits
Acai berry contains spermidine that aids in delaying skin cells from the process of aging. The carotene class of flavonoid plant antioxidants further plays an important role in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and sunken skin. Eating acai berries or drinking the juice will also help to boost the production of collagen, a protein essential for maintaining the elasticity and firmness of skin texture.
Acai Berry Recipes:
Classic Acai Berry Bowl
1 cup frozen acai berries, thawed
1 large ripe banana, sliced
1 cup mixed berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
¼ cup yoghurt
¼ cup almond milk
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tbsp chia seeds
Add the acai berries, yoghurt, almond milk and honey to the pitcher of a mixer and blend on high to obtain a smooth texture.
Pour this thick solution into 3 bowls, top it off with bananas, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries arranged neatly in rows or circles
Sprinkle some shredded coconut, garnish with chia seeds and relish this delicious classic acai berry bowl for a wholesome breakfast.
Acai berries are packed with vitamin A for augmented vision and calcium for fortified bones and joints, besides bioactive plant sterols that regulate blood cholesterol levels and promote heart health. Bananas supply calories, carbohydrates for instant energy, while strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are imbued with anthocyanin antioxidants that prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer, dementia and stroke. Chia seeds are a powerhouse of proteins, for building strong muscles and promoting physical fitness and stamina.
Cocoa Acai Berry Smoothie
3 tbsp acai berry powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 apple, cut into pieces
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 cup low-fat milk
1 tbsp jaggery powder
A fistful of mixed nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts
Transfer the acai berry powder, along with cocoa powder, apple slices, hemp seeds, low-fat milk and jaggery powder to a blender.
Pulse on high until a homogenous mixture is obtained.
Pour this concoction into two glasses, chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then top it off with mixed nuts.
Sip on this refreshing cocoa acai berry smoothie in the evening or after a rigorous workout.
Acai berry powder is bestowed with anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and phenolic compounds that are powerful antioxidants which effectively avert the risk of cancer and also confer neuroprotective properties to safeguard brain and nervous system functioning. Cocoa powder comprises vast reserves of polyphenol antioxidants that possess strong anti-inflammatory traits to reduce pain, swelling in the body, while apples deliver vitamin C for immunity and jaggery is laden with iron for promoting blood circulation in the system.
Side Effects Of Acai Berry:
Acai berry is a nutrient-dense fruit that usually does not pose any harmful side effects when eaten in moderate amounts. However, consuming excess quantities of these tiny round bounties triggers gastrointestinal problems of diarrhoea, stomach ulcers, nausea as well as headaches and blurry vision.
Furthermore, acai berries contain significant levels of simple sugars and calories and hence must be eaten in smaller portions by diabetics and those on a weight loss diet.
Acai berries are found to aggravate allergic reactions in people with pollen allergies and hence caution must be exercised by such individuals to eat only small quantities of the fruit or steer clear of it altogether to avert hypersensitivity complications.
Undoubtedly, acai berries are a superfood brimming with essential nutrients of fibres, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals as well as potent antioxidants. They deliver noteworthy merits for health including augmenting heart wellness, lowering the risk of cancer, enriching skin texture, boosting brain power and even fostering strong bones, joints and muscles.
Savour this delightful bounty as a fruit bowl, juice, smoothie or simply add the frozen acai berry fruit or dried acai berry powder to salads and drinks to reap the wonderful health benefits of acai berries. Keep in mind to consume measured portions of acai berries as part of the daily diet to steer clear of any side effects and promote overall health.