What are Acai Berries?
Acai, scientific name Euterpe oleraceae, it is also known as Amazonian palm berry is a small, reddish-purple drupe consisting of a cluster of seeds. There are different types of acai berries white acai berries and dark red or purple varieties. Acai berries contain carbohydrates, dietary fiber, healthy fats, and protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
They contain vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Amongst minerals, acai berries contain calcium, iron, potassium, and sodium. Acai berries has many health benefits which includes heart health and aid in weight loss, skin care, and digestion. They also help reduce allergies and boost the immune system and energy levels among others.
History Of Acai
Scientific name: Euterpe oleracea Mart
Botanical family: Arecaceae (Palmae)
Origin of the açaí tree: Brazil and Amazon Region (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Guianas). In the indigenous language called Tupi Guarani, the word açaí means “fruit that cries”, in other words, fruit that expels water. Açaí is a fruit type berry, rounded or oval, of violet color almost black, when ripe they are reunited in bunches. The açaí has an edible pulp, enveloping the seed. It is from this small berry that is extracted by maceration the traditional and much appreciated “açaí juice or wine”, which is used in the preparation of drinks, super juices, sweets, ice cream and jellies.
Açaí has to be processed daily by virtue of its rapid fermentation, since it cannot withstand more than 48 hours even when well refrigerated. So, every day, seven days a week, before dawning completely, the sidewalks near the Ver-o-Peso Market in the capital of Pará are taken by baskets, sacks and cans full of açaí from the interior regions. It is the Açaí Fair. Once sold on the market, the açaí will be transformed into juice. Put in warm water to soften and detach the pulp, the fruits are kneaded by hand or in appropriate machines.
In addition to the commercial process, it is customary for many Pará families to produce the “açaí wine” for their daily consumption and, selling the surplus at their houses, which is identified by a small red flag placed at the entrance door. If in the North of Brazil, the açaí is used in the daily life of the population, not as dessert, but as a main dish, in the South and Southeast regions of Brazil, and also abroad, the use of açaí pulp has become a habit of Groups of young people, called “health generation”, who prefer to consume açaí juice, super juices, mixed with other fruits and cereals, between meals, before or after sports, as a source of energy replacement.
In fact, it is known that açaí is essentially energetic food, with a high caloric value, presenting 2.37% of protein content and 5.96% of fat. Rich in proteins, fibers, lipids, minerals (phosphorus, iron and calcium), vitamins (B1, B2) and antioxidant (anthocyanin), combats bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL) and also has anticancer power. The beneficial effects of açaí for health are many. The fruit is rich in vitamins B, C complex, in addition to having many minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium. Açaí is also rich in anthocyanins, substances responsible for blood circulation.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of açaí, responsible for 85% of the world’s supply. Currently, Pará exports about 80% of the açaí pulp marketed in the country – around 500 tons per month – to all regions of Brazil and abroad like: Japan, United States, Europe, South America, among others. It is certainly a booming market, which is benefiting from small collectors and local producers to large exporting companies.
Uses Of Ackee
There are many uses of acai berries, including the following:
- There is a huge range of cosmetic products that contain acai berry oil, owing to the skin-enriching properties in it.
- The fruit is also widely used in juices, dietary pills, salads, as well as a good livestock food source to promote animal
Traditionally, the leaves were also used to make mats, hats, brooms, and roofing material for thatched homes.
Nutritional Value of Acai
Acai berries contain carbohydrates, dietary fiber, healthy fats, and protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They contain vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. Amongst minerals, acai berries contain calcium, iron, potassium, and sodium.
Amount per 100g
- Calories 70
- Total Fat 5 g – 8% RDA
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 10 mg
- Total Carbohydrates 4 g – 1% RDA
- Dietary Fiber 2 g – 8% RDA
- Sugar 2 g
- Protein 1 g
- Vitamin A 15% RDA
- Calcium 2% RDA
Amazing Health Benefits of Acai
1. Heart Health
Acai berries contain high levels of anthocyanins which is an antioxidant and seek out and eliminate the free radicals that are responsible for a wide variety of diseases and conditions, including heart diseases. Anthocyanins are also related to regulating blood cholesterol by reducing the LDL or bad cholesterol, thereby lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.
2.Aids in Digestion
Acai berries contain dietary fiber which aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. It adds bulk to the food material and helps with bowel movement and helps reduce constipation, bloating and even diarrhea. They also have detoxifying properties which help cleanse the body’s digestive system and remove the build-up of hazardous toxins.
Nutrition Health Benefits of Acai
3. Boosts Immunity
Acai berries are rich in vitamin C which helps boost immunity. It has antioxidant properties that help neutralize free radicals that may cause may health effects.
4. Reduces Cancer Risk
Acai berries has ellagic acid which helps fight cancerous cells. They also contain polyphenols, which battle cancerous cell growth on a molecular level and also prevent it from multiplying and metastasizing into lethal amounts.
5. Heart Health
Acai berries contains high levels of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids which help reduce levels of high density lipoprotein cholestrol and raise low density lipoprotein cholestrol which help reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
They also contain antioxidant especially anthocyanin which help reduce levels of free radicals throughout the body which may lead to heart disease.
6. Brain Health
Age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s and dementia are believed that inflammation and free radicals play a major role. Many of the antioxidants found in acai berries can help reduce levels of inflammation and free radicals, and they may help keep the memory and reasoning parts of the brain healthy even into our elderly years.
7. Aids in Weight Loss
The dietary fiber in acai berries aids in weight loss as it provides satiety for longer and this helps prevent overeating and snacking between meals. One study found that 30 days of using acai berries resulted in a lower level of fasting insulin and glucose levels, as well as a reduction in total cholesterol levels. The high fiber content of acai berries can also reduce appetite and stop hunger pains associated with overeating and weight gain.
8. Skin Care
The antioxidants in acai berries can help prevent pimples, fighting inflammation from the inside. These antioxidants can also help reduce the appearance of scars, discoloration and wrinkles. Vitamin C also helps in the production of collagen which helps with the skin elasticity and prevents skin aging signs like wrinkles.
9. Regulates Blood Pressure
Acai berries have plenty of plant sterols, which act as vasodilators and relax blood vessels to reduce blood pressure, prevent blood clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks, and generally improve the circulation and oxygenation of the blood.
Acai berries have an ability to increase the blood circulation throughout the body. Since lack of blood flow is one of the primary causes of erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual stamina, acai berries are commonly used as an alternative medicine for helping people with these conditions.
11. They Could Boost Brain Function
The many plant compounds in acai could also protect your brain from damage as you age. Several studies have shown this kind of protective effect in lab rats. The antioxidants in acai counteract the damaging effects of inflammation and oxidation in brain cells, which can negatively affect memory and learning.
In one study, acai even helped improve memory in aging rats. One of the ways in which the brain stays healthy is by cleaning up cells that are toxic or no longer working, a process known as autophagy. It makes way for new nerves to form, enhancing communication between brain cells. As you age, this process works less efficiently. However, in lab tests, acai extract has helped stimulate this “housekeeping” response in brain cells.
12. They May Improve Cholesterol Levels
Animal studies have suggested that acai could help improve cholesterol levels by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol. And it’s possible that it could have a similar effect in humans. A 2011 study had 10 overweight adults eat acai smoothies twice daily for one month. Overall, they had lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol at the end of the study.
However, there were a few drawbacks to this study. It was small, had no control group and received its funding from a primary supplier of acai. While more research is needed, it’s possible that the anthocyanins in acai could be responsible for their positive impact on cholesterol levels, since studies have linked this plant compound to improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol. In addition, acai contains plant sterols, which prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by your body.
13. They’re Loaded With Antioxidants
Antioxidants are important because they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body. If free radicals are not neutralized by antioxidants, they can damage cells and lead to a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Acai berries have an incredibly high amount of antioxidants, edging out other antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries and cranberries.
The antioxidant content of foods is typically measured by an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score. In the case of acai, 100 grams of frozen pulp has an ORAC of 15,405, whereas the same amount of blueberries has a score of 4,669. This antioxidant activity comes from a number of plant compounds in acai, including anthocyanins.
In 2008, researchers gave 12 fasting volunteers acai pulp, acai juice, applesauce or a drink with no antioxidants at four different times and then tested their blood for antioxidants. Both the acai pulp and applesauce raised participants’ antioxidant levels, which means that the antioxidant compounds in acai are well-absorbed in the gut. It also indicates that acai pulp is a better source of antioxidants than acai juice.
14. Stops Bad Cell Proliferation
Acai berries are powerhouses against bad cell growth. Multiple studies have found that the anthocyanins and polyphenols found in acai berries have strong antiproliferative properties–which means they stop bad cells from growing out of control. Studies have found up to 95% inhibition from acai. It is thought that these phytochemicals can disrupt cell mutation at a molecular level, killing the affected cells before they multiply.
15. Reduces Irritation
Acai seed extract has properties that may prevent irritation in the lungs typically associated with respiratory distress and swelling from smoke inhalation. Although I recommend quitting smoking or never starting in the first place, if you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke, acai’s antioxidant properties may reduce smoke-induced swelling inside of your lungs.
16. Improves Cellular Health
Acai plays an important role in the body’s cellular protection system, helping to keep cells strong against the invasion of free radicals. Acai has the strongest activity of any fruit or vegetable tested to date against the peroxyl free radical and superoxides, which cause cell damage. The antioxidants in acai enter human white blood cells and perform an “oxygen quenching function” at very low doses. That’s why acai is called a superfood!
17. Encourages a Healthy Libido
Although not an aphrodisiac per se, this famous purple berry is linked to overall increased blood circulation in the human body, a phenomenon that may contribute to a boost in sex drive, especially for men. When overweight men consumed an acai smoothie, it led to improved vascular function, which is a characteristic of how blood flows through the body’s blood vessels.
18. Boost Cognition
In terms of brain health and function, acai berry juice has been linked to increased mental functioning and sharpness of mind. The berries also improve memory and protect the brain from the development of neural disorders.
19. Promote Wound Healing
Acai berries have anti-inflammatory properties because of which the acai berry water extracts are used to speed wound healing.
20. Improve Metabolism
The antioxidant properties of acai berries are its most celebrated aspect, and they can also benefit healthy cellular metabolism and functioning. They reduce the chances of unhealthy apoptosis (cell death) and increase the efficiency of the cell’s absorption of nutrients and the subsequent translation into useful energy.
How to Eat Acai
Since fresh acai berries have a short shelf life, they’re mainly exported and widely available in three main forms — purées, powders and juices. The juice is loaded with antioxidants, but it’s also the highest in sugar and lacking in fiber. Although, if filtered, the juice may contain fewer antioxidants. The powder delivers the most concentrated amount of nutrients, giving you fiber and fat, as well as plant compounds.
That being said, the purée is probably the best way to enjoy the flavor of acai berries. To make an acai bowl, blend unsweetened frozen purée with water or milk to turn it into a smoothie-like base for toppings. Toppings may include sliced fruit or berries, toasted coconut flakes, nut butters, cocoa nibs or chia seeds. You can also make a bowl using acai powder. Blend it into your favorite smoothie recipe, then top with your favorite add-ins.
Pumpkin Papaya Superfood Acai Bowl
Break out of the berry rut with this pumpkin and papaya recipe from Breakfast Criminals, a blog entirely composed of superfood breakfasts, with an emphasis on vegan, gluten-free and raw recipes.
“When I think of pumpkin, the first thing that comes to mind is pumpkin pie — not the healthiest food out there, is it,” says New York City-based blogger Ksenia Avdulova. “This Pumpkin Papaya Acai Bowl creates a delicious pumpkin breakfast or dessert alternative for those who’re looking to eat healthier. It’s a nutrition powerhouse that will nourish your body with antioxidants, potassium, healthy fats, vitamins and a boost of clean energy.”
- 1/2 can organic pumpkin
- 1/2 cup papaya
- 1 frozen unsweetened acai smoothie pack
- 2/3 ripe banana
- 1 tablespoon maca
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon and pumpkin spice
- 1 cup almond milk
1. Combine in blender and blend.
2. Top with granola, remaining banana, papaya, cashews, goji berries, and pomegranate seeds.
What is Acai Berry Cleanse?
Acai berry cleanse is a detoxification regimen that helps in colon cleansing and weight loss. Acai juice is the most important factor here and it works better than the supplements available in the market. The cleanse washes away the toxins from the body and promotes regular bowel moments, treats constipation, and boosts energy.
How To Grow Acai?
Native to the rain forests of South America, the acai palm (Euterpe oleracea) can reach 90 feet in height. Each of its 1/2 to 1-inch fruits consists of a single large seed with a thin coating of flesh. Ripening to a dark purple that is almost black, they form large clusters and are generally harvested from July through December. Frequently growing along waterways, the palms are tolerant of occasional flooding, but can’t endure freezing temperatures. In North America, they will generally only survive outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 11.
- Acquire acai palm seeds when they are fresh, preferably during the last half of the year. If they are clean, pop them in a container of water for 24 hours before planting them. If they still retain fruit pulp, soak them for several days and rub off the loosened pulp against the mesh of a kitchen strainer.
- Fill a 1 gallon pot with a moist mix of half peat and half perlite, and plant the seeds in that mix at a depth equal to half their diameter. Enclose the pot in a large, clear plastic bag, and place it on a seed starting heat mat to provide temperatures in the 80s Fahrenheit.
- Watch for the acai palm seeds to germinate in about one to two months. When they begin to sprout, lift the pot out of the plastic bag. Position it on a partially shaded window sill or under the end of a grow light timed to run during the daylight hours.
- Keep the seedlings soil damp, and transplant them into 4-inch diameter tree pots of cactus and palm potting soil when they are about 2 inches tall. Continue to grow them in pots for about 6 months or until they reach 20 inches in height.
- Choose a location outdoors in a partially shaded area, with fertile and acidic soil that is well drained but stays moist. Dig holes 15 inches in diameter and plant the acai palms about 15 feet apart. Water them thoroughly, and continue to water them as often as necessary to keep their soil evenly damp but not waterlogged.
- Feed them a couple times a year. For a timed-release palm fertilizer, such as 8-4-8, apply about 1/2 tablespoon per square foot of planting area around the trunks. For an organic palm fertilizer, such as 4-1-3, double that amount.
- Examine the palm fronds occasionally for pests like scale and mealybugs. If you see pests, spray the foliage on a cloudy day with a light horticultural oil solution. Use about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the oil per gallon of water, and repeat the treatment every 10 days until the pests are gone.
- Watch for the acai palms to begin making panicles of purple flowers and fruit in the third to fifth year. They can produce some fruit year-round, but the heaviest harvest usually comes from July to December.
Things You Will Need
- Acai seeds
- Kitchen strainer
- 1-gallon pot with drainage holes
- Large, clear plastic bag with twist tie
- Seed-starting heat mat
- Grow light (optional)
- 4-inch diameter tree pots
- Cactus and palm potting soil
- Watering can
- Time-release 8-4-8 palm fertilizer or 4-1-3 organic palm fertilizer
A single acai palm will produce both male and female flowers, so extra plants aren’t required for pollination.
Each acai palm usually forms several trunks.
Harvesting fruit from mature palms can be dangerous, due to their height.
Negative Effects Of Acai
While it is clear that consuming acai berry can be very beneficial to overall health and is used by millions to protect themselves from various diseases, there are inherent risks in taking this miraculously healthy berry.
- Allergy to pollen: If you have any allergies to pollen or other fruits, be very careful before adding it to your diet, and consult your doctor for an updated allergen test.
- Effects of additives: The additional ingredients added to the supplements can reduce the benefits of the fruit, or even prove harmful to your health. The most common additive is caffeine, which gives an instant energy boost that people associate with healthy activity in the body.
- High sugar content: The fruit and its juice contain sugars and calories, which can be detrimental to weight loss attempts and can also be very dangerous for diabetics if consumed in bulk.
Other than these risks, acai berries can provide you with a wealth of health benefits to improve your body and mind!
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