The acai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a fruit that grows on the acai palm trees in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. It is dark purple in color and about the size of a grape. It is extremely rich in nutrients. Natives of the Amazon region have made this berry a major part of their diet for hundreds of years.
Approximately 10% of the berry contains edible pulp and skin and the remaining 90% is the seed or pit. Most of the nutrients come from the pulp and skin and the seed is normally not eaten. The fruit tastes like a vibrant mix of berries and chocolate. With rich nutrients and great taste, it is not surprising that this food is becoming extremely popular.
Acai Berry, the new Superfood
Despite being extremely popular in Brazil, the acai berry has been relatively unknown in other parts of the world. However, recent media coverage of this amazing food has been touted on the Oprah Winfrey show, ABC, NBC and CBS news and other shows. It has also been featured in several books. In fact, Dr. Perricone calls this berry the number one superfood in his book “The Perricone Promise”. The berry is extremely rich in antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. With 15-20 times the antioxidants as red grapes, it is one of best sources of antioxidants of any food. There are numerous benefits to acai. In summary, it can help:
- Promote weight loss
- Boost energy & stamina
- Support the immune system
- Promote more restful sleep
- Fight aging and inflammation
- Protect against heart disease
- Increase libido
Read more about acai berry benefits.
How Acai aids weight loss
In addition to being rich in nutrients, acai is being touted as the next weight loss fad. With the recent media exposure, many clever companies are jumping on the bandwagon and marketing acai as the best diet aid. And although these claims may be somewhat exaggerated, scientific evidence has proven that acai contains several key ingredients that suppress appetite, increase metabolism and help build muscle tone. Read more about diet and weight loss.
Acai Berry Products
Unfortunately, unless you live in Brazil, this berry is not available in your local supermarket. The berry is extremely perishable and usually spoils within 24 hours of being harvested. However, with careful processing, the rich set of nutrients can be preserved in supplements, juice drinks, frozen berries and preserves. Supplements are processed by carefully freeze drying the fruit. With the addition of water, freeze dried products can be restored to their original consistency. Beware of products which use other methods of processing such as spray drying or drum drying. The high heat used in this processing can destroy the nutrients in the product. Also beware of products which mix acai with other products. The benefits of acai can be compromised with the addition of ingredients like other juices, sugars, caffeine, etc. Read more about acai berry products.
In Brazilian herbal medicine, the oil of the fruit is used to treat diarrhea; an infusion of the root is used for jaundice and to build the blood; an infusion of the grated fruit rind is used as a topical wash for skin ulcers; and, the fruit seeds are crushed and prepared in an infusion for fevers. In the Peruvian Amazon, an infusion of the toasted crushed seeds is used for fever, and a decoction of the root is used for malaria, diabetes, hepatitis and jaundice, hair loss, hemorrhages, liver and kidney diseases, menstrual pain, and muscle pain. In Colombia, where the trees grow along the Pacific coast line, it is called naidÃ and the fruit is turned into a common and popular drink. Acai is used in many forms; Some of its main application are:
- Ice Cream
- Cooking filling
- Breakfast cereal
- Aroma compound
- Dairy product
- Energy drink