Exotic fruits and berries are becoming more and more popular, and acai berries are no exception. Advertised as a superfood, they are rich in nutrients that make the berries (which are technically not berries at all!) beneficial for health. In what ways can they support the body? And what is better – acai berry juice or pulp? Read on to find it out.
Image credit: nutritionfacts.org
Where do they come from?
The origin of acai berries is South and Central America, where they had been used as a staple food until the acai hype robbed the locals so that there were not enough berries for them. Acai berries have become extremely popular only recently, and their reputation is rather controversial: while they certainly do contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants, the claims made by many a manufacturer offering “superfood” drinks and snacks are often misleading or even mendacious, as the advertisements saying acai berries are good at helping lose weight appear not to be based on scientific evidence. That is why you should be careful when buying products that promise miraculous results.
However, what has been said above does not mean acai berries are worthless, no sir. They are rich in nutrients and even famous for their high levels of antioxidants. Since they grow only in certain regions, their transportation is a challenge, and their short shelf life makes it difficult to find them outside the areas in which they are cultivated. That is why in many countries acai berries are available only in the form of purees or juices.
In what ways are acai berries beneficial?
The two forms of acai berries available differ in their nutrition values and bioavailability. However, the nutrition profile of the berry itself takes pride in its abundance of anthocyanins, which are antioxidants and the chemicals responsible for the berry’s deep color. There are other nutrients and minerals, such as chromium, copper, zinc, iron and several other compounds, which are found in trace amounts, though. So there are two major interesting facts about the content of acai berries: they are rich in antioxidants, and surprisingly rich, for a plant, in saturated fat. The share of the latter in 100 g of frozen berries makes up 1.5 g.
- Antioxidative effect. According to the US Department of Agriculture and other responsible organizations that presented an ORAC score list of selected foods, acai berries are characterized by a much higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity than that found in cranberries and blueberries. However, it must be noted that acai berry pulp increases blood antioxidant level more than acai juice does, which means pulp is preferred over juice when absorption in the digestive system is concerned.
- Cholesterol and LDL. Acai berries can reduce levels of cholesterol, both total and LDL, an animal study suggests. Another study demonstrated that eating acai smoothies twice a day for 30 days could lower LDL and cholesterol in humans. Yet it is also worthy of note that the study findings may prove to be misleading, as it was funded by an acai supplier, and there were only 10 volunteers, with no control group.
- Boosting brain function. In the course of aging, the brain gets damaged, and antioxidants found in acai berries can help protect the brain from it. Inflammation and oxidation are associated with brain deterioration and have an impact on learning and memory. There are several studies suggesting acai berries are beneficial for the brain, at least in rodents.
As seen from the facts above, acai berries and juice are a good source of antioxidants – actually, it’s the key reason why they have the reputation of a healthy superfood. However, many claims, like being able to cure cancer and other diseases, do not stand up to scrutiny, and more research is needed to determine whether there are other medicinal properties.
USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 – Orac-info-portal.de
Pharmacokinetics of anthocyanins and antioxidant effects after the consumption of anthocyanin-rich acai juice and pulp (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in human healthy volunteers – Pubs.acs.org
Diet supplementation with acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves biomarkers of oxidative stress and the serum lipid profile in rats – Nutritionjrnl.com