In case you haven't already heard, there's a potent South American super fruit that's taken the U.S. marketplace by storm and this little berry may offer some huge benefits. Grown in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, "
is loaded with health-promoting compounds that have appeal to just about everyone. Acai has been featured on talk shows like Oprah, Rachel Ray, and multiple news stations such as NBC, CBS, and ABC and has been touted as a "
or "One of Five Good-For-You Foods You May Have Never Heard Of." On the Oprah show, renowned physician Dr. Perricone promoted acai berries as the number one super food with a variety of compelling arguments to back that assertion.
Is acai effective for
? As an
? Fortunately, new independent studies are beginning to emerge and are helping us better understand the potential health benefits of this mysterious fruit.
Pronounced 'ah-sigh-ee', this small purple-colored fruit is similar to blueberries in size and texture and grows in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil. The natives to the region have been harvesting and incorporating acai into their diet and medicines for hundreds of years. Many people say that the berries taste like a blend of red wine and chocolate. In South America, acai berries are commonly pureed and served warm as a sauce or soup. In the United States, acai
is most commonly sold in health food stores as a juice, smoothie blend, or in freeze packs.
Initial studies have shown that acai berries are a bountiful source of
, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and
Omega 3 fatty acids
Since most fruits are virtually fat free, acai's high concentration of essential fatty acids puts it in a category all its own. Acai berries also contain a potent blend of B vitamins, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and sulfur.
Furthermore, acai has been shown to help protect muscle cells from increased oxidative stress produced during intense training, thereby helping to reduce
. This is of particular importance to hardcore athletes who must contend with much more oxidative stress than the average individual. Oxidative stress can damage the cells and DNA, and hinder an athlete's endurance and strength capacity. More and more evidence is showing that free radicals serve as a signal to stimulate the adaptive processes in muscle cells. Fortunately, antioxidants from fruits (particularly acai) may help maintain the integrity of cell membranes allowing oxygen to be carried more efficiently to the muscles.
According to Dr. John La Puma, MD, author of
ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine
, acai berries are so nutritious that they may also help lower bad cholesterol, inhibit inflammation, and reduce the pain of arthritis.
Until recently, no human studies conducted on acai had demonstrated the fruit's capacity for being absorbed by the body when consumed. In an article published in the
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
, a team of Texas AgriLife research scientists showed that indeed both acai pulp and acai juice showed a significant amount of absorption of antioxidant anthocyanins into the blood. The research team said future studies will need to be conducted to determine whether the consumption of acai will result in any disease-preventing health benefit.
"Like vitamin C, the body can only absorb so much at a time," co-researcher Dr. Steve Talcott explained. "Research now needs to determine the potential disease-fighting health benefits, so we can make intelligent recommendations on how much acai should be consumed. Our concern has been that it is sold as a super food - and it definitely has some good attributes - but it is not a solution to all diseases," he said. "There are a great number of foods on the market, and this could just be part of a well-balanced diet.†
With more and more positive benefits being attributed to this tiny berry, a number of companies have rushed acai products to market. Predictably, a significant percentage of these products contain little bioactive content.
(available in both powder
forms) contains only premium-grade, freeze-dried acai berry extract, which ensures retention of the same nutrient content present in fresh acai, for optimum efficacy. In addition,
ProSource's Acai Liquid
up the effectiveness of acai with the key ingredients of pomegranate, blueberry, and raspberry, making it a particularly powerful antioxidant cocktail.
Protect your body from oxidative harm, while enhancing overall vitality and health, with acai!
ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine. La Puma, J., New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.
Schauss A.G., Wu X., Prior R.L., Ou B., Huang D., Owens J., Agarwal A., Jensen G.S., Hart A.N., Shanbrom E. (2006). "Antioxidant capacity and other bioactivities of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (acai)".
J Agric Food Chem. 54 (22): 8604††10.
Lubrano C, Robin JR, Khaiat A (1994). "Fatty-acid, sterol and tocopherol composition of oil from the fruit mesocarp of 6 palm species in French-Guiana".
Oleagineux. 49: 59††6.
Pacheco-Palencia LA, Mertens-Talcott S, Talcott ST (Jun 2008). "Chemical composition, antioxidant properties, and thermal stability of a phytochemical enriched oil from AÃ§aÃ (Euterpe oleracea Mart.)".
J Agric Food Chem. 56 (12): 4631††6.