Acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE) berries have been all the rage in recent years. Alternative health practitioners talk them up. Acai berries are sold in smoothies, supplements, juices, powders, energy drinks, and even sorbet.
But what’s behind the hype? Is there any substance?
As it happens, there certainly is.
Acai berries come from the acai palm tree. They are abundant in the Amazon Basin. And they are an important staple of indigenous people there.
There are a number of acai varieties. But the darker red or purple types have the greatest nutritional value.
The berries have a short shelf life. They are exported in dried powder form, juice, or frozen fruit purée.
Some of the health benefits of acai berries include…
- Blueberries and cranberries are often cited as excellent sources of antioxidants. But acai is far superior.Antioxidant food content is measured with the oxygen radical absorbance score (ORAC). The ORAC score for 10 grams of blueberries is about 460. Acai pulp is more than three times higher.
- Lower blood pressure. A study in the journal Vascular Pharmacology found that acai lowers blood pressure. This is because its rich sterol content relaxes blood vessels.
- Fights cancer. A study from Texas A&M University found that acai inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells. It also promoted apoptosis (death of cancer cells). The researchers concluded that acai extracts “…can be effective as natural colon cancer chemopreventive agents.
- Protects the brain. A study from Tufts University found acai counteracts the damage of brain inflammation and oxidation.
And research published in the FASEB Journal found acai extract stimulates autophagy. Autophagy keeps the brain healthy by cleaning up cells that are toxic or not working.
- Boosts energy. A study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism analyzed the effects of acai on athletes. It found the fruit improved stamina and fought fatigue.
Acai juice is often packed with added sugar. You’re better off taking it as a supplement or powder, which you can mix into yogurt or a smoothie.
You can find acai in health food stores and from online retailers.
Trendy or not, acai is one superfood that lives up to the hype.