|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 an individual tree and bears 3-5 bunches with each carrying hundreds of berries much similar to areca or date palm.
Each acai berry measures about the size of a small sized grape, 2-3 cm in diameter. Immature fruits appear dark-green initially, which turn deep-purple upon attaining maturity. Technically, the fruit is a "drupe" which consists of outer-edible pulp (mesocarp) surrounding a large seed (stone). Only this part (mesocarp), comprising only about 10-15% of the berry weight, is edible.
Acai-berry has superb 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 carry about 80-250 calories depending upon 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 their free radical fighting actions. Besides, 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 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 the LDL-cholesterol level and raise good HDL-cholesterol concentrations in the body and thus help cut down heart disease risk. Additionally, the essential fats in acai contribute to maintaining adequate moisture in the skin and prevent skin dryness.
Acai pulp has good levels of dietary fiber. Adequate fiber in the diet helps clear excess cholesterol through the bowel movements.
ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of acai berry is thought to be at the mid-level range for fruits, higher than that of oranges but less than pomegranate. USDA, however, has not validated the exact ORAC value for acai so far.
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. The human body utilizes Manganese as a 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 found in adequate amounts in them. These vitamins function as co-factors and help the body in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Acai berry extraction being employed 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.
in the Peruvian culture, decoction derived from the acai roots has been found useful in the treatment of menstrual pain, liver diseases, malaria.
|Acai plants 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 trees could gather these completely mature bunches from 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.
|Harvested acai berries put for sale.
Photo courtesy: borderlys
The outer peel or pulp (mesocarp) is the edible component in acai. Seeds are either discarded or used as animal fodder.
Here are some serving tips:
Acai juice, a refreshing drink with distinctive nutty flavor, is usually obtained from macerating ripe berries. To prepare; ripe berries soaked in lukewarm water to soften their thin outer flesh. They then squeezed, and the large seeds strained out to obtain a thick purple creamy liquid.
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 a starchy manioc root vegetable and consumed as delicious porridge.
Its extraction is mixed with sugar or sugarcane juice to sweeten and drink as a beverage.
Its extract can be employed to flavor ice creams, smoothies, shakes, liquor, and other dessert.
Further, the berries are being employed in energy boosting nutritional supplements as capsules, tablets, and as an energy bar snacks.
Acai palm hearts are tender, white, immature growing buds of the palm frond just above its growing point on each stem. The hearts are the favorite by-product of acai tree employed as a vegetable in a way similar to the oil-palm hearts. They usually gathered from bringing down its stem (trunk) and peeling away outer layers to uncover central core or "palm heart." Although palm hearts are of little nutritious value, yet they treated as a rare delicacy and therefore, command a very high price in the market.
Consumption of acai berry has been found to be safe and has no notified contraindications. It is being used safely in pregnant women in the Amazon basin. So far, no allergic or toxicity cases identified. (Medical disclaimer).
Acai berry is a fruit product of Euterpe oleracea palm tree. As in fruits from any other similar palm family trees like coconut, date palm, oil palm, acai too has its unique caloric and nutritional profile. It is high in calorie and fats. There are no established studies suggesting that the consumption of acai products would help lose weight.
Acai has been one of the chief food ingredient 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.
Antioxidants present in modest levels in acai in contrast to claims made by some companies, websites, articles, etc. The USDA, on its part, has so far not even bothered to find out its nutritional profile and ORAC value. However, there are many herbs, fruits, berries, and vegetables in the nature that possess antioxidants levels much higher than that in acai. For example, cinnamon has the 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 on the planet earth which are rich in calories and fats, and known to reduce body weight at the same time.
Acai berry so far has no documented evidence suggestive of its use as an aphrodisiac. (Medical disclaimer).
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