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Super Foods: Acai Berry

Super Foods: Acai Berry

05 September 2019

Super Foods Blog: Part 3 of 3

Acai (pronounced ah-sah-ee) berry is a small grape shaped fruit that is native to the rainforests of Brazil, Peru and Suriname in South America. The fruit grows in large clusters near the tops of palm trees in the Amazon. The Acai berry is a dark purple coloured fruit which contains just 10% fruit and 90% seeds. The fruit tastes like a cross between a blackberry or raspberry and dark chocolate.

Nutritionally the Acai berry is a stand out due to its very high concentration of antioxidants especially an antioxidant called Anthocyanin, but it also contains a good source of amino acid, fibre and essential fatty acids. Antioxidants are important because they’re molecule that prevent the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation produces free radicals which can damage cells and glands within our bodies making us more prone to disease and ageing. Every day our bodies are exposed to a variety of toxins and produce trillions of free radicals, therefore it is important to reduce the effect of free radicals in the body by ensuring we have a diet rich in antioxidants to prevent free radical damage.

Acai berries are usually consumed by mashing the fruit into a pulp and separating the large seed from the puree. The puree is then used to make a beverage which can be consumed straight away or as a smoothie in a bowl topped off with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Outside of the Amazon, Acai berries are exported as a pulp that’s been freeze dried into a powder. The powder is then added to yoghurt or banana to create a smoothie which is then topped off with a variety of toppings such as fresh fruit, granola, nuts and seeds to create an Acai bowl.

Acai berries are usually consumed by mashing the fruit into a pulp and separating the large seed from the puree. The puree is then used to make a beverage which can be consumed straight away or as a smoothie in a bowl topped off with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Outside of the Amazon, Acai berries are exported as a pulp that’s been freeze dried into a powder. The powder is then added to yoghurt or banana to create a smoothie which is then topped off with a variety of toppings such as fresh fruit, granola, nuts and seeds to create an Acai bowl.

Acai berries have been heavily promoted for its antioxidant capabilities, and with that several false health claims have been made such as the ability to reverse diabetes and other chronic conditions, weight loss, increasing libido and curing sexual dysfunction in men. There have been no research or evidence to support any of these claims.

So, is having an Acai bowl healthy? Unfortunately, an Acai bowl is just a glorified dessert, even though the ingredients used are healthy i.e. fruit and granola, it still has a high sugar content and the serving size it comes in is usually excessive. To put it in perspective; one Acai bowl contains approximately 500 calories (2100kj) which is the equivalent to the same amount of energy in a roast dinner. Therefore, this is best eaten occasionally and not as a snack. As for eating Acai berries for health giving antioxidant content; blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and eggplant contain just as much or even more antioxidants especially Anthocyanin than Acai berry so I wouldn’t go out of my way to include this in my diet.

Lisan Yip
Accredited Dietitian

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