Acai Berry Review & Information: Potent SuperFood?
The acai berry is the fruit of the palm tree with the same name. Acai palms are native to Central and South America and grow throughout the Amazon rainforest. In Brazil, the acai berry is well-known for its nutritional and medicinal value, and that popularity is beginning to spread throughout the Western hemisphere.
Acai is a rich source of anthocyanins, antioxidant compounds responsible for the dark purple color of the fruit. Anthocyanins are believed to have significant anti-aging and anti-cancer properties as well as protective effects against cardiovascular disease.
The berries have a very high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) “score”—a value used to rate the antioxidant power of different foods. While it’s difficult to find an official number for the whole fruit, one commercial producer, Sambazon, claims a value of approx. 6,000 per 100g of its pure, acai puree product. Commercial juice products have ORAC values ranging between 17 and 23 TE units/ml (approx. 4000–5400 TE units/8 oz serving).
These are substantial numbers.
The typical American diet provides only about 1670 TE units/day—less than half of the 3000–5000 units/day recommended by the USDA.
Thus, acai products have the potential to significantly improve total antioxidant intake.
According to a recent study, both acai pulp and juice increased concentrations of anthocyanins and plasma antioxidant capacity in human volunteers.
Beyond their antioxidant content, acai berries are rich in monounsaturated fat, similar to olive oil. As part of a healthful diet pattern, these “healthy fats” may also help reduce cardiovascular risk. The berries also provide a range of nutrients, including vitamins B, C and E, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and phytosterols.
Acai merits its status as a “superfruit”, but the hype is running well ahead of the reality. In Brazil, where fresh acai is eaten daily, it’s not regarded as a cure for cancer or other degenerative diseases…nor does it possess any documented fat-burning powers.
Anthocyanins are not unique to acai, but are also present in other, less expensive foods, such as blueberries and red grapes. In fact, one study comparing acai juice to other antioxidant rich juices ranked it below pomegranate juice, red wine, concord grape juice, blueberry juice and black cherry juice.
In North America, acai is available in juice/smoothie form, frozen pulp/puree, and supplement capsules/powders/products. If you’d like to try it, you can buy caps online at BodyBuilding.com, one of our recommended online retailers.
Beware of inflated claims and equally inflated prices, however. As acai researcher Stephen Talcott cautions, “A lot of claims are being made, but most of them haven’t been tested scientifically…We are just beginning to understand the complexity of the acai berry and its health-promoting effects.”
Acai is a safe, highly nutritious food, but it’s not a miracle worker.