What is Acai? Nutritional composition and Benefits of Acai

Acai

credit:webmd.com

Benefits of Acai:

  • A mine of antioxidants
  • Protects the heart
  • Would help to lose weight
  • Role in cancer prevention

What is Acai?

Acai (Euterpe oleracea) is a tall palm native to the tropics of South America, especially Brazil (like guarana). We also speak of acai for the purple berries that grow at the top, and that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon have been consuming since pre-Columbian times for their invigorating properties.

The acai palm is very thin but can grow up to 20 meters tall. It grows in the humid forests of South America, especially in Brazil, but also in Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Peru. The berries are harvested by hand: the pickers climb the trees using vegetable ropes and collect the bunches of fruit.

The berries are very fragile. While pickers and local people can eat them fresh, people further away from the acai palms – that is, the rest of Brazil and the world – can only access their frozen pulp in the form of mash. They are also found in powder, after being dried and crushed.

Why such a craze given the fragility and difficulty of extracting and storing acai berries? It must be recognized that their intense purple color is quite photogenic, the proliferation of acai bowls on instagram and other blogs testifies to this. But their success is mainly based on the many benefits attributed to them.

But also because the acai berries have an exceptional nutritional density. Rich in fiber, protein, minerals and trace elements, they provide an interesting rate of RDI (recommended daily allowance) for many nutrients. Finally, they contain very little sugar!

Nutritional composition:

  • Protein
  • Fatty acids: omega-9, omega-6
  • Fibers
  • Vitamins B1, E
  • Minerals and trace elements: potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron, sodium, zinc, copper
  • Polyphenols: flavonoids

Benefits of Acai:

  • A mine of antioxidants

The antioxidant capacities of acai, measured by ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), reach 12,324 µmol TE / 100g of fruit. This is three times more antioxidant activity than blueberries, which are already champions in the field.

It contains 3.29 g of polyphenols per 100 g of dry matter. Among these polyphenols, we find particularly anthocyanins, flavonoids which pigment the fruits, in this case which give their purple color to the acai berries. These antioxidants are also found in another small fruit native to the Amazon, acerola.

These antioxidants will considerably reduce the action of free radicals on our cells, protecting them from oxidative stress and aging.

This study from the Institute of Nutritional and Food Sciences in Bonn, Germany analyzed the performance of polyphenols in acai pulp.

  • Protect the heart

Acai protects the heart, especially thanks to its cholesterol-lowering properties. Cholesterol is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease.

The anthocyanins in it help lower LDL cholesterol – the bad cholesterol, while the beta-sitosterols in it also prevent the body from absorbing it.

This pilot study by Medicus Research LLC in Canada, conducted on 10 overweight individuals, showed that consuming acai smoothies twice a day for a month helped lower their LDL cholesterol levels.

  • Would help to lose weight

This benefit is much debated. Some manufacturers routinely stamp acai berries “slimming product”. However, no scientific study has yet proven this claim, for the moment only marketing.

But their high fiber content, 30g per 100g of dry matter, would produce a feeling of satiety and an appetite suppressant effect. In addition, they are low in calories.

  • Role in cancer prevention

Acai is the subject of numerous investigations in the prevention of cancer. Indeed, its components would fight against the spread of cancer cells.

However, so far, scientific studies have only been performed in vitro or on animals.

This in-vitro study from Texas A&M University has shown that the polyphenols in acai can naturally prevent colon cancer.

How to Consume Acai?

This is usually where the bottom hurts, as acai products often have additives, including a huge amount of sugar. We always read the labels carefully and choose our product carefully! And we promote an organic and fair trade origin when possible.

Acai Bowl:

The acai bowl is without a doubt the dessert that gave this fruit its current fame. It is an invention from Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s that we owe to the founder of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie. The practice of this martial art required a protein and toning diet, and the açai bowl, made of frozen acai pulp and banana, was supposed to strengthen athletes.

Very quickly the açaí na tigela (in Portuguese) conquered other disciplines, especially surfing. The concept was popularized by surfers in California and Hawaii, before becoming a global trend.

Today you can find acai bowls everywhere, especially in vegan restaurants and coffee shops. We even call the acai “the fruit of globalization”, with all that this can lead to drifts!

Good news, you can just as easily make them yourself, and the açai bowl recipes are easy to make! They are perfect for breakfast and afternoon tea. To do so, mix 200g of frozen acai pulp, half a banana and a little honey in a blender. Pour into a pretty bowl and add your favorite toppings: banana slices, red fruits, granola, nuts, mint …

Acai powder:

The acai powder is obtained from dried berries, crushed and powdered in the cold. It can be easily obtained in organic grocery stores or on the Internet. To integrate it into our diet, we can sprinkle it on our yogurts, smoothies and other fruit salads.

Acai juice:

Another way to consume them is to drink them as juice. Again, always look carefully at the labels. Very sweet mixes are often found on the market, where the acai content is found to be low. However, you should know that pure acai juice is relatively expensive!

Dosage:

There is no specific dosage for acai berry. As with any food, we recommend avoiding excess – beware of its taste of chocolate red fruit which can lead to consuming more than it should!

Contraindication and side effects

Again, no contraindication or side effects observed.

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