Acai berries, pronounced ah-sigh-EE, come from the acai palm tree, which grows in Central and South America. They’re bluish-purple and similar in size and shape to large blueberries.
People native to the Amazon have been using acai berries for their health benefits for many years. They became popular in the United States when the berries were named as a superfood on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The acai berry contains more antioxidants than other berries like blueberry, strawberry, and cranberry. Some studies have found a link between antioxidants and cancer prevention.
Acai palm trees can grow as high as 60 feet in the Brazilian rainforest. Because harvesting is done by hand, the locals responsible for collecting the berries have to scale dangerous heights to get them.
Harvesting the berries and preparing bunches for shipping has to be an extremely quick process, because the berries have to be shipped by boat and can spoil easily.
You can find acai berries in most health food stores. They can be eaten raw, juiced, or concentrated in pill form. Sometimes they’re also used as a natural color additive in foods such as ice cream and jelly, as well as in drinks.
Raw acai berries taste a bit like blackberries, but with a slight bitterness that is similar to dark chocolate. The acai berry is more commonly used as part of a juice or dietary supplement because it has a large seed in the middle.
Most berries contain chemicals called antioxidants, but acai berries are thought to have more than your average strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry. Their high antioxidant content is one of the reasons the berries have become so popular as a health food.
Antioxidants may protect your body’s cells from getting damaged by oxidative processes. When cells oxidize in the body, their membranes become damaged. This damage results in the creation of free radicals. Free radicals take electrons away from other healthy, unoxidized cells. By protecting against oxidation, acai berries have the potential to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and various conditions related to the aging process.
Acai berries contain high levels of important fatty acids such as omega-3, omega-6, and monounsaturated oleic acid. Omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential for good health, and experts recommend getting a balanced amount of each. Oleic acid is often used in skin care products. They’re all said to help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Acai berries wouldn’t be a superfood without their bluish-purple skin. Like many other fruits, the skin contains fiber and various nutrients, and most of the antioxidants. If you’re buying a supplement or drink made from acai, you’ll want to make sure the product contains plenty of skin.
In the United States, acai berry supplements have been marketed as weight loss aides. Currently, there is very little research to support whether or not the berry is effective as part of a weight loss plan. However, one study from the UCLA School of Medicinefound promising evidence that taking acai berry supplements may help to reduce risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes in overweight adults.
While acai berries and juice appear to be safe to consume, there is very little research on the safety of supplements. Experts advise using caution if you are pregnant, and avoiding acai if you have an allergic reaction to plants in the palm family.
Eating acai might have an effect on MRI exam results. If you have an MRI scheduled, it’s important to tell your doctor that you’ve eaten or taken anything containing the berry.
Researchers generally agree that acai berries, in raw and juice form, have many health benefits. They’re a good source of antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber. So far, claims that they are able to help with weight loss, arthritis, and removing toxins from the body have yet to be scientifically proven. Future studies may unlock more information on how these berries can help us.