Açaí berries are the fruit of an Amazonian palm of the same name. The palms are picturesque, with slender trunks growing up to 30 meters in height, and in its native area, the Açaí palm’s fruit provides up to an astounding 40% of total nutritional intake to the surrounding populations.
As a major food source, it’s also an important part of Brazilian folk lore – the Açaí tree is said to be named for a beautiful Amazonian girl, the daughter of a chief, named Iaca (Acai backwards). This story probably indicates the fruit’s history and cultural importance.
Acai Fruit’s Notoriety as a Dietary Supplement
Lately, the Acai fruit has been gaining notoriety as a dietary supplement, and, like most superfoods, it’s marketed for everything under the sun. Açaí supposedly helps blood pressure, sexual performance, digestion, detoxification, and improved circulation. But most of all, it’s marketed as a weight loss product.
It’s easy to get away with marketing a weight-loss “supplement” in the USA because supplements aren’t regulated or evaluated by the FDA. That is why companies are able to make quite a few claims without having to have the science to back them up (see my Noni article for more about this). But how much of the Açaí berry’s fame is deservedly based in reality, and how much is hokum? Let’s explore the actual nutritive value of this weird little fruit that’s captivated the entire country.
A Wonderful Source of Nutrients
I have no doubt that fresh Açaí berries are a wonderful source of nutrients – Skrewtips readers know that I’m an advocate of fresh fruit consumption over juice, supplement, or dried varieties. Those of us in the Amazon probably enjoy Açaí’s great antioxidant powers. However, in supplement form, Açaí berries feature the following:
Açaí berries are rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties; these consist of anthocyanins, flavonoid-like compounds, and resveratrol (which we know from red wine). Anthocyanins are interesting — because of their dark color, they possess a capacity to inhibit UV ray penetration; this makes them powerful antioxidants for humans as well. They give blood oranges and red berries like Açaí their beautiful dark hue, and there has been research that anthocyanins can inhibit the growth of tumors.
Micronutrients like vitamin A and C, although not in high enough levels, make Açaí berries stand out in any way from other fruits.
Like all fruits, Acai pulp contributes to your daily fiber intake in a big way. The juice is not the same, fiber-wise – always go for fresh fruit or pulp if you can.
Antioxidant Activity of Acai Berries
This fruit’s power lies in its antioxidant activity; still, the hype around Acai berries is overwrought, although there’s really no doubt that they’re a superfood. However, they aren’t a miracle cure for, as the Examiner says, “years of poor lifestyle choices.” Incorporating them into a balanced diet is a great idea, but they alone won’t do the trick or make you a healthy person. Strategically consuming them along with enough water as well as fiber, protein, vitamins, and other micronutrients, however, will give you promising results!
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.