Increasingly, more and more people are starting to experience the health benefits of superfoods such as Goji berries, Noni fruit and Acai berries. A superfood can be defined as a food that offers superior nutritional value for the amount of calories it contains. Acai berries are considered one of the best due to their incredible antioxidant properties, and are said to have numerous other health benefits.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in numerous supplement manufacturers and distributors making outrageous claims about the wonders of this berry. Whenever a product becomes popular, as Acai has, false claims seem to pop up everywhere. But before I investigate these, let’s find out more about Acai.
Acai berry is a dark purple colour fruit, which is similar in shape to a grape. These berries grow in huge clusters near the tops of palm trees in the Amazon rain forests. Each Acai berry contains just 10 percent fruit and pulp and a large seed, which has no benefits. Harvesting this fruit is laborious since the tree has no branches and each cluster of berries needs to be cut and brought down manually in order to preserve the fruit and pulp.
Acai evolved from obscurity of the rain forests into the cities of Brazil where it was mixed into health-giving smoothies. Surfers and sports people claimed that it boosted their energy levels. Finally scientists latched onto this and found that Acai did indeed have some beneficial properties.
What are the benefits of Acai?
The taste of Acai berries, once processed and powdered, is often described as a fruity red wine flavour with chocolate overtones. Within the nutritional pulp and skin, Acai berries are packed with antioxidants, amino acids, fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals making it a near perfect energising fruit.
The popularity of Acai is primarily due to its very high concentration of antioxidants. Briefly, antioxidants are molecules that prevent the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation produces free radicals which can damage the cells and glands within our bodies making us more prone to disease and ageing. Since our bodies are exposed to a variety of toxins and produce trillions of free radicals, it is important to take steps to reduce the effect of free radicals in the body. Having a diet rich in antioxidants is the first step and introducing Acai into your regime is another possible way of preventing free radical damage.
Acai has been recognised as one of the world’s highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) foods. ORAC is a measurement of how well antioxidants can neutralise free radicals. The higher the value, the better the body utilises it to fight free radicals. Acai has more than double the antioxidants of blueberries and nearly ten times that of grapes.
The antioxidants found in Acai berry, anthocyanins, are excellent for heart health. Heart disease is increasingly becoming a problem in the world and finding natural ways of keeping your cardiovascular system healthy is an excellent option. Additionally, anthocyanins are also good at preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. When circulating cholesterol, no matter whether you have high or low levels, gets oxidised, it sticks to the walls of arteries causing their narrowing. This build-up of plaque eventually leads to high blood pressure which is of course dangerous.
- The fibre found in Acai berry skin and pulp can aid digestion. Fibre can help prevent or relieve constipation and may help support a healthy cardiovascular system.
- Acai is naturally high in essential fatty acids having a fatty acid profile similar to olive oil. The link between essential fatty acids and heart health and a healthy nervous system is well documented.
- Acai berries contain amino acids which help promote muscle performance, energy production, endurance and strength.
- Acai berries contain as much Vitamin C as blueberries and is also a source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and E. It is also a source of calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
With such an amazing nutritional profile, it is not difficult to understand why Acai berries can be beneficial for your health and may help slow down the ageing process.
Why is there so much hype around Acai?
There is no doubt about the health benefits of Acai berries. Unfortunately when a product becomes very popular, unfortunately this can lead to misleading information and claims.
Firstly, the largest sector that Acai has been targeted to is weight loss. There are numerous sites that claim that taking Acai Berry in a liquid or capsule form will help to shed pounds. It is estimated that large numbers of the adult population at any given time are thinking of losing weight. Is it a surprise then that Acai has been targeted to this audience?
The truth is that Acai contributes to the overall health of the body, and should not be relied upon solely for weight loss. A healthy lifestyle including a variety of vegetables, quality protein and fruit coupled with some form of exercise will be of benefit. I am not dismissing that Acai can be of benefit, however it should not be relied solely for losing weight. Yes, antioxidants do help to neutralise the by-products of fat burning and thus ensure that the body can carry on burning fat. Acai’s fibre content will help to cleanse the colon and this is one of the steps in achieving weight loss since many of us have sluggish digestion.
Acai is expensive since the berries have to be freeze dried within 24 hours to keep their nutritional profile intact. Freeze drying preserves the goodness of Acai berries found in the skin and pulp and not in the juice.
Many products containing Acai use only a small amount of Acai and load the products with other fillers or juices.
There are many manufacturers who claim that Acai helps to cure arthritis, help depression and improve libido. Frankly, I am sceptical of these claims.
So what are the best Acai Berry supplements?
To summarise, Acai Berry:
- Helps to increase your antioxidant levels to aid in neutralising damaging free radicals.
- Boosts your energy levels.
- Supports your immune system.
- Helps to promote a healthy digestive system.