Acai berries are palm fruits grown mainly in the northern part of South America, especially in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Pronounced ah-SAH’-ee, the fruits have a dark purple skin and taste like a mixture of berries and chocolate. Already a favourite with the alternative health crowd, its popularity got a boost when celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray revered it as a weight loss supplement and colon cleanser.
You won’t find the raw fruit at your local grocery or market because it spoils quickly and has a short shelf life. But this antioxidant powerhouse is available in many natural health products in the form of capsules, powders, juice, and berry drink. Some commercial preparations contain 100% of the fruit with its extracts, while others combine the berries with additional natural ingredients. So why all the hype? What are the benefits of taking acai?
Acai’s Super Healing Powers
Several recent scientific studies have confirmed that this fruit is one of the most powerful and nutritious foods in the world. It contains 10 times the amount of antioxidants found in red grapes and 30 times the amount found in red wine.
Anti-oxidants help to scavenge free radicals in the body and protect it from premature aging and infections. They promote faster healing and help lower the risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer. These antioxidants — along with the many vitamins and minerals in acai — are also believed to aid weight loss, possibly because they can regulate cholesterol and boost energy levels.
These berries also contain very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are well-known for their ability to control cholesterol levels and improve blood circulation and cardiovascular health. They also boost the immune system, and brain, cell and tissue function.
Here are what a few studies had to say about the berries:
• According to findings of a study published by the National Institutes of Health, acai had the highest antioxidant activity of any fruit or vegetable against certain free radicals. The study also indicated that the fruit had anti-inflammatory properties.
• In a University of Florida study lead by Stephen Talcott, an assistant professor with the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the berries destroyed leukemia cells in cell cultures. More research is needed to determine if it can fight cancer in humans.
Are There Any Side Effects?
The fruit is safe and has been used for centuries in countries such as Brazil and Colombia to treat ailments such as skin disorders and ulcers. However, many of the products on the market are simply expensive impostors and contain additional ingredients, some of which may cause negative reactions. Watch out for the Acai Berry Scam! For the best health benefits, choose all-natural or 100% Acai products.