This tiny little purple berry has been a staple in it's native Amazon region for centuries. In recent years, Acai has gained global popularity and has been praised for being beneficial to health and wellbeing, earning itself a superfood or superfruit status. These benefits may be directly attributed to the amount of vitamins and nutrients this berry packs. While many of the proposed benefits of Acai have yet to be proven or studied, this nutrient density can be linked to all kinds of evidence based health and wellness benefits.
So what exactly are these berries and where do they come from? Acai are berries that grow on acai palm trees in the rainforests of Central and South America. They grow to about 1 inch round and have a dark purple skin with a yellow flesh surrounding the seed. Even though they are commonly referred to as berries, acai is technically a drupe because they have pits like apricots and olives.
Acai frequently accompanies meals in the Amazon rainforest. They must first be soaked to soften the tough outer skin and then mashed into a dark purple paste. The taste is earthy and often described as a cross between blackberries and unsweetened chocolate. Fresh Acai has a short shelf life and is not available outside of where they are grown, except as an export where they are sold as a frozen fruit puree, pressed juice or a dried powder like we use in our Organic Superfood Reds or our Organic Pre-Workouts.
Acai has a unique nutritional profile for a fruit due to the high fat and low sugar content of the berry. 100 grams of frozen acai pulp has 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of that being saturated fat, 4 grams of carbs, 2 grams of that coming from fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 15% RDI of vitamin A, and 2% RDI of calcium. This along with the results of of a Venezuelan Study that showed Acai also contains some trace minerals, including chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, make it one of the most nutrient dense fruits out there!
Some of the most powerful benefits of Acai come from it's plant compounds like anthocyanins, which give them their deep purple color and act as antioxidants in the body. This is important because antioxidants neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body. If these free radicals are left unchecked they can damage cells and lead to a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Luckily, this Superfruit is packed with the antioxidants needed to fight free radicals. In fact, Acai berries have even more antioxidants than blueberries and cranberries, which are recognized as antioxidant-rich foods. During a study in 2008, researchers gave 12 fasting volunteers Acai pulp, Acai juice, applesauce or a drink with no antioxidants at four different times and then tested their blood for antioxidants. The results showed both the Acai pulp and applesauce raised participants' antioxidant levels, meaning that the antioxidant compounds in Acai are well-absorbed in the gut.
If the first two benefits weren't enough to get your attention, this one might! Plant compounds found in Acai may also protect your brain from damage as you age. There are several studies that have shown this kind of protective effect in lab rats. The high levels of antioxidants in Acai counteract the damaging effects of inflammation and oxidation in brain cells, which could negatively effect memory and learning. In one study, Acai actually helped improve memory in aging rats.
In order for the brain to stay healthy, it must undergo the process of autophagy. A state in which the body cleans up cells that are toxic or no longer work. This makes way for new nerves to form, enhancing communication between brain cells. Unfortunately, as we age, this process begins to work less effectively. However, in lab tests, Acai extract has helped stimulate this "housekeeping" response in brain cells promoting autophagy.
These are just a few of the many benefits this amazing Amazonian Superfruit brings to the table. While it can only be found fresh in the areas where it is grown, you can still enjoy the benefits in the form of powdered extracts like we use in our Organic Superfood Reds or our Organic Pre-Workouts.