Some facts about Acai berry
What are Acai berries?
Acai berries are considered one of the top superfoods, generally due to their antioxidant properties but also have numerous other health benefits. A superfood can be defined as a food which offers a superior nutritional value for the amount of calories it contains.
The fruit, commonly known as açaí berry, is a small, round, black-purple drupe about 25 mm (1 in) in circumference, similar in appearance to a grape, but smaller and with less pulp and produced in branched panicles of 500 to 900 fruits. The exocarp of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of açaí and its maturity. The mesocarp is pulpy and thin, with a consistent thickness of 1 mm (0.04 in) or less. It surrounds the voluminous and hard endocarp, which contains a single large seed about 7–10 mm (0.3–0.4 in) in diameter. The seed makes up about 80% of the fruit. Two crops of fruit are produced each year and is harvested during the dry season between July and December.
These berries grow in huge clusters near the tops of palm trees, which grow in the Amazon rain forests. Each Acai berry contains just 10% fruit and pulp and a large seed, which has no benefits, so 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.
A powdered preparation of freeze-dried açaí fruit pulp and skin was reported to contain (per 100 g of dry powder) 533.9 calories, 52.2 g carbohydrates, 8.1 g protein, and 32.5 g total fat. The carbohydrate portion included 44.2 g of dietary fiber and low sugar value (pulp is not sweet). The powder was also shown to contain (per 100 g): vitamin C, 260 mg calcium, 4.4 mg iron, and 1002 U vitamin A, as well as aspartic acid and glutamic acid; the amino acid content was 7.59% of total dry weight (versus 8.1% protein).
The fat content of açaí consists of oleic acid (56.2% of total fats), palmitic acid (24.1%), and linoleic acid (12.5%). Açaí also contains beta-sitosterol (78–91% of total sterols)
The benefits of Acai berries:
The taste of Acai berries is often described as a fruity red wine flavour with chocolate overtones. They are highly perishable and therefore should be consumed within 24 hours. 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.