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Acai berry nutrition facts

Does acai berry has the highest antioxidant levels of all the commonly known superfruits like pomegranate, blueberries, etc?

A research revelation establishes that acai indeed carries no extra beneficial nutrients than some of the commonly used fruits like mango, blueberry, pomegranate, etc. Acai is a simple berry which has been in use as a traditional staple food of Amazon river basin tribes for centuries, but somehow recently gained recognition as so-called the "super food” status in the western world. Nonetheless, this wonderful berry offers very good levels of anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that would benefit overall health and fitness.

acai-juice extract
Acai berries (Euterpe oleracea).
Note dark purple, round berries.
Photo courtesy: gurucrusher
Acai pulp extract. Note dark brown, creamy texture dense liquid.
Photo courtesy: foxmuld3r

Acai berry is a small, round, deep purple fruit obtained from the acai palm tree. Botanically, acai belongs to palm or Arecaceae family of tall trees in the genus Euterpe, and botanically known as Euterpe oleracea.

Acai palm is a tall, slender tree growing to a height of 15 to 25 m. An average mature plant may possess 3-10 well-developed stems of 10-18 cm each in diameter from a single root system. It grows better under waterlogged low-lying plains receiving good annual rainfall. Each stem behaves like individual tree and bears 3-5 bunches with each bunch carrying hundreds of berries much similar to areca or date palm.

Each acai berry measures about the size of small sized grape, 2-3 cm in diameter. immature fruits appear dark-green initially, which turn deep-purple later upon attaining maturity. Technically, the fruit is a "drupe" which consists of outer-edible pulp surrounding a central large seed (stone). Only the pulp part (mesocarp), comprising about just 10-15% of berry weight, is edible.

Health benefits of acai berry

  • Acai berry has very good levels of anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have health benefiting and disease preventing properties.

  • Unlike other berries and fruits, acai has high caloric values and fats. 100 grams of berries provide about 80-250 calories depending up on the preparation and serving methods. In fact, fresh acai berry has been the staple nutritious diet of native Amazonian for centuries.
  • Acai berry contains many polyphenolic anthocyanin compounds like resveratrol, cyanidin-3-galactoside, ferulic acid, delphinidin, petunidin as well as astringent pro-anthocyanidin tannins like epicatechin, protocatechuic acid and ellagic acid. Scientific studies suggest that these compounds have been claimed to act as anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer functions by virtue of their anti-free radical fighting actions. In addition, tannins found to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties.

  • Primary research studies suggest that ellagic acid in acai has anti-proliferative properties by virtue of its ability to directly inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens (nitrosamine toxins) in the food.

  • Acai berry is also rich in medium chain fatty acids like oleic acid (omega-9) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These compounds help reduce LDL-cholesterol level and raise good HDL-cholesterol levels in the body and thus help cut down heart disease risk. Additionally, the essential fats in acai help prevent skin dryness by maintaining adequate moisture in the skin.

  • Acai pulp has good levels of dietary fiber. Adequate fiber in the diet helps clear cholesterol through the stools.

  • ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of acai berry is thought to be at mid-level range for fruits, higher than that of oranges but less than pomegranate. USDA so far has not validated exact ORAC value for acai.

  • Acai berries contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is utilized inside the human body as co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

  • Further, they are rich in B-complex vitamins and vitamin-K. Niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and riboflavin are found in adequate amounts in them. These vitamins are function as co-factors and help body in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Acai uses in traditional medicine

  • Acai berry extraction being used by Amazon natives as a treatment remedy for diarrhea, parasitic infections, hemorrhages, and ulcer treatment.

  • A kind of decoction obtained from crushed acai seeds has been in use for the treatment of fever.

  • Decoction obtained from the acai roots has been found useful in the treatment of menstrual pain, liver diseases, malaria in Peruvian culture.

Selection and storage

acai-plam harvesting-amezon forest
Acai harvesting in Amazon rain forest
Photo courtesy: nsub1

Fresh acai can only be available near their plantations. In general, acai fruits harvested twice a year. Workers expert in climbing up trees could gather these completely mature bunches near the crown end of acai palm.

Acai is highly perishable. Once harvested, it should either be eaten or transported to processing units.

Several commercial products from the acai extraction are available in the stores. Freeze-dried whole acai also sold in the stores; however, they are nutritionally much inferior to fresh berries.

Preparation and serving methods

acai berries
Harvested acai berries put for sale.
Photo courtesy: borderlys

The outer peel or pulp (mesocarp) has been the main edible content in acai. Seeds are either discarded or used as animal fodder.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Acai juice is a refreshing drink commonly obtained from macerating ripe berries. To prepare juice, ripe-berries are soaked in lukewarm water to soften their thin outer flesh. They are then squeezed, and the large seeds strained out to produce a dense purple creamy liquid with a distinctive nutty flavor.

  • Acai drinks, either freeze-dried or powdered juice preparations, are quite popular in the Americas, particularly in Brazil.

  • Traditionally in the tribal Amazon belt, acai extracts commonly mixed with starchy root vegetable, manioc and is eaten in porridge.

  • Its extract is mixed with sugar or sugarcane juice to sweeten, and drink as a beverage.

  • Its extract can been used to flavor ice creams, smoothies, shakes, liquor, and other desserts.

  • Further, the berries are being used in energy boosting nutritional supplements or snacks in the forms of capsules, tablets, and energy bars.

Acai palm hearts

Acai palm hearts are tender, white, immature growing buds of the palm frond just above its growing point on each stem. The hearts are popular by-products of acai tree that can be eaten as a vegetable, similar to oil-palm hearts. They usually gathered from bringing down its stem and peeling away outer layers to expose center core or "palm heart". Although they are of no or little nutritious value, yet palm hearts treated as a rare delicacy and therefore, command very high price.

Safety profile

Consumption of acai berry has been found to be safe and has no notified contraindications. It is safely used in pregnant women in the Amazon basin. So far, no cases of allergic or toxicity cases identified. (Medical disclaimer).

Truth facts about Acai

  • Acai berry is the fruit from Euterpe oleracea palm tree. As in fruits from any other similar palm family like coconut, date palm, oil palm, acai is no different in caloric and nutritional profile. It is high in calorie and fats. There are no established studies suggesting that the use of acai products would help lose weight.

  • Acai has been staple food of Amazonian for centuries. So, it is treated more like a food item by them than as a "novel fitness berry" unlike blueberry, pomegranates, etc., which indeed are very low in calories.

  • Anti-oxidants levels present moderately in acai in contrast to claims made by certain companies, websites, articles, etc. USDA has so far not even bothered to find out its nutritional profile, and ORAC value. However, there are countless herbs, fruits, berries and vegetables in nature that have antioxidants levels much higher than that in acai (for example, cinnamon has highest USDA documented ORAC value of 267536 trolox equivalents (TE), which is many hundred times more than that in acai, chokeberry, apples etc).

  • Acai berry is high in calories, and hence, gives immediate strength and stamina. There are no known food items in the nature which are rich in calories and fats, yet known to reduce body weight.

  • Acai berry has so far had no documented evidences to suggest its use as an aphrodisiac. (Medical disclaimer).

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