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Açaí Berry: A Good Fruit, But Ignore the Hype

Photo by borderlys by Flickr

Photo by borderlys by Flickr

A few years ago, if someone had asked if you had heard of açaí, you probably would have said “Huh? What’s that?” But today açaí is mentioned everywhere.  We are bombarded with products with açaí in them everywhere we turn. It is found in juices, ice creams, smoothies, beauty products, dietary supplements, liquors and the list goes on.  It is quickly becoming one of the most popular “health” foods in the world.  Some companies even claim that açaí is an amazing superfood that lowers cholesterol, increases energy, stops the aging process, burns fat and helps with cancer, heart problems and allergies.  Wow!  With all those miraculous claims, what is açaí and where can I get it?

What is açaí?
The açaí berry is a small, round, dark purple to black colored fruit that is similar in appearance and size to a grape, but with less pulp.  The meat of the fruit surrounds a single large seed that makes up about 80% of its mass.  The berry is harvested from the açaí palm tree, which is native to Central and South America, but it is most prevalent in the Amazon region of Brazil.  While they are tasty to eat, you are unlikely to get a chance to eat the berries fresh, unless you are in an area where they are grown, because they deteriorate quickly after they are picked.  That’s why they are usually sold as juices or powders in places other than where they are grown.

Are açaí berries healthy?
Açaí berries, like most similar fruits, have a healthy nutritional profile.  They are:

  1. Rich in antioxidants: Some studies show that açaí berries have a high level of antioxidants, with more antioxidants than red wine, grapes, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. That’s a good thing because a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
  2. Good source of fiber and protein: For a fruit, the açaí berry has been shown to be a good source of fiber and protein.  The dietary fiber is important for preventing constipation, lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.  The protein is an added bonus because it gives people who don’t eat meat or who are trying to eat less meat another plant based source of protein.
  3. Contains omega-3 fatty acids: These heart healthy essential fats may help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease.

Are the claims of companies selling açaí true?
Although the açaí berry has a number of substances that look promising in promoting health, research is still in the preliminary stages.  More evidence is needed to back up the claims that are currently being put forward in the media. So, don’t take all the claims that the açaí berry is an elite superfood at face value, especially any claims about its ability to burn fat and help you lose weight.  Those claims are unproven.  So far, studies have not shown that this berry has dramatically more health benefits than other similar fruits.

The bottom line:
The science community is still unsure if açaí can deliver on all the health claims that have been associated with it recently.  But eating a diet rich in fruits is an important part of a healthy diet and the açaí berry does seem to be a good source of antioxidants.  So, if you enjoy açaí products as part of a balanced diet and not as a cure to a health ill or as part of a weight loss plan, you know that you are doing something good for your health!

Comments (7)

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  1. Shina says:

    This was a good and honest article about acai. I’ve been drinking an acai juice blend for about 2 years now and have found that I do receive health benefits but would have a hard time believing that it helps in weight loss (my own weight loss comes from small portions/exercise & I count the acai juice blend into my caloric intake).

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    Thank you for this impartial information about the Açaí because I have been hearing about it as being a great way to lose weight and other benefits.

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  5. Emily - LI says:

    This is good info to have out there. I am sooo tired of being bombarded by ads making claims that people should be able to see immediately are complete nonsense. There is no magic bullet in weight loss, or anything else!

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