This berry has been a traditional food and medicine of Amazon basin tribes for centuries, only recently coming to be common on United States shelves. Acai (pronounced ah-sah-ee) berry is a small, round, dark purple fruit obtained from acai palm tree. Each berry measures about the size of a small grape, 2-3 cm in diameter. The fruit consists of outer-edible pulp surrounding a central large seed. Only the pulp is edible.
Acai berry is the fruit from a palm tree, and has a similar nutritional profile (relatively high calorie and fat content) as other palm fruits, such as coconut. Despite its marketing campaign as a super fruit or “miracle weight loss” fruit, there are no established studies to prove the effectiveness of Acai in weight loss.
Fresh Acai may be difficult to come by, since it is highly perishable. Freeze-dried Acai is more readily available.
Health benefits of Acai:
- It has good levels of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
- Acai has high caloric values and fats, including oleic and linoleic acids. These medium-chain fatty acids are essential for skin health, and are a healthy plant fat, so they may help with cholesterol levels.
- Contains many polyphenolic anthocyanin compounds, such as resveratrol, cyanidin-3-galactoside, ferulic acid, delphinidin, petunidin, and tannins like epicatechin, protocatechuic acid and ellagic acid. These compounds may assist with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer functions through their fighting of free radical damage.
- They have good fiber content – most Americans get only half of the fiber they need daily!
- Minerals such as potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium are present, as well as vitamin K and B-complex vitamins.
If Acai sounds like something you’d like to try, there are several products that feature the flavor, such as smoothies, shakes, and the well-loved Acai bowl.
-Morgan McManimon-Myers, BS, RDN