The Açai berry, pronounced ah-sigh-ee, comes from the Açai palm native to the Amazonian rainforests. The Açai tree is the same tree that yields the heart of palm sometimes used in salads. The Açai berry itself is small, round and blackish-purple. Because they deteriorate rapidly after being picked, Açai berries used to be available only in the Amazon region. Now Açai berries are usually juiced or made into a fruit pulp that gets dried, frozen or freeze-dried before transport and then used in a variety of beverages, including juice blends and smoothies, as well as in supplements and other food products.
Here is some information about the benefits of the products and supplements made from Açai berries:
- Antioxidant Properties. What makes the Açai berry skin purple is the powerful antioxidant, anthocyanin. Twelve additional flavonoids have been identified in Açai berries. The antioxidant content in Açai berries is ten times that of red grapes, ten to thirty times that of red wine, and twice that of blueberries. Research on Açai continues as there are many nutritional aspects of the fruit that are not yet fully understood. For example, an analysis of oxygen radical absorbency capacity (ORAC) of a freeze-dried Açai powder shows an incredibly high antioxidant effect that is not entirely explained by Açai's known antioxidants.
- Fatty Acids. Açai berries are especially rich in the fatty acids, oleic acid (Omega 9), palmitic acid and linoleic acid (Omega 6), the "good" fatty acids. The ratio of fatty acids in Açai resembles that of olive oil. Nearly 1/3 of the berry is fat.
- Physterol. Açai berries are very rich in phytosterols, which compete with dietary cholesterol for absorption, and so may reduce blood cholesterol levels.
- Vitamins and Minerals. Açai berries contain Vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and E, and the minerals potassium, sodium, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus and sulphur.
- Iron. The Açai berry is high in iron. Açai contain 5-7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams.
- Amino Acids. The pulp and skin of Açai berries contain 19 different amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; a 100-gram serving of Açai contains more than 8 grams of protein.
- Fiber. Açai is packed with fiber. A 100-gram serving of Açai contains 44.2 grams of fiber.
- Flavor. The flavor of Açai has been described as a combination of berry and chocolate. We'll leave the question of what exactly Açai tastes like up to you.
In addition to the health benefits of Açai berries and the juice and products produced from them, there is one additional benefit to consuming Açai. The harvesting of berries from the Açai palm is far preferable to the harvesting of the palm heart, which kills the entire tree for the acquisition of only the top growth shoot. So as you enjoy the health benefits of Açai, you can know that you are that you are helping to promote sustainable agriculture at the same time.