Is the Acaí Berry the Next SuperFood?
The Acaí [ah-SIGH-ee] berry is one of more controversial fruits available for consumers today. Read on to take a closer look at the mysteries of the Acaí berry and learn more about its origin, its reported health benefits, and ways to include this amazing fruit in your diet.
The Acaí berry is a small reddish, purple fruit that closely resembles an elongated grape. As a native of the wilds of the Brazilian rainforests of Central and South America, the berries are the product of the palmberry tree that flourishes in the region. Numerous studies have focused on the antioxidant qualities of these special berries that could help prevent certain diseases.
Acaí berries were first introduced to the western world in the mid 1990's, but they have been around for much longer than that. Ancient tribes of the Amazon jungle used them as a homeopathic cure for various ailments, and news of their potential flowed to the Americas over time. Western society quickly became enchanted by the belief that this tasty fruit could provide more than a quick, energizing meal.
The berries are found on palm trees with long thin trunks, in groups that resemble small blue bottles hanging in between the palm’s ribbon-like leaves. The berries have been traditionally picked by hand for centuries. Tribesmen would climb the tree and cut branches from the uppermost sections of a palm tree laden with berries. They would then bring their harvest back to the village, where women would pluck and prepare the fruit to eat.
The health benefits of the acaí berry are a source of constant debate. Some studies show there no greater health benefits than other berries, fruits, and vegetables. Others claim to prove that antioxidant levels are much higher in these particular berries. Whether or not these claims are true, Acaí berries are worth considering for healthy diets that include fresh produce as a means of defense against free radicals.
Free radicals are harmful byproducts either introduced to the body as toxins from the outside environment or produced by the body during digestion of processed foods and other internal pollutants. Antioxidants may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and other heart-related diseases by lessening the destructive power of free radicals.
Two of these antioxidants are flavonoids and anthocyanins. They also help defend the body against some of life's more damaging consequences from stress.
Anthocyanin is Greek for 'blue flower.' These antioxidants are responsible for the blue, red, and purple hues of the berries themselves. Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and other fruits with such deep, rich pigments have high concentrations of these beneficial antioxidants.
How to Eat
Acaí berries can be prepared in a number of different ways. They can be eaten raw as Acaí na tigela - literally translated as 'Acaí in a bowl'. Others get its nutritional value from various juices, sometimes included in smoothies. Acaí juice is similar to grape juice, and just as sweet.
The berries can make a great addition for salads, perhaps combined with crumbles of soft goat cheese or sliced almonds. Acaí also makes a great meat tenderizer or marinade for beef and lamb, due to its natural pH qualities. Wine made from Acaí berries is another popular trend emerging in the Western world. More people are finding out about this purported “super food” every day, so its uses will continue to evolve in the coming years.
No matter where you get your Acaí fix from, the exciting new flavor of these well-respected berries will enhance any healthy diet and provide additional health benefits as well. You can find frozen berries or a bottle of juice at your local grocer, so give this fun-to-pronounce berry a try as part of your daily diet.