Acai Berries - Nutrition And Health Benefits
Acai PalmsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Latin Name : Euterpe oleracea.
About Acai Palm
The fruits of the Acai palm is the Acai berry. Acai is pronounced as ah - sigh - ee. The name of this fruit is derived from the indigenous Brazilian language 'Tup' and it means 'the fruit that cries' or 'expels water'. This is strange considering the fact that almost 80% of the acai fruit is composed of the seed. Maybe the extremely perishable nature of the fruit gives it its name. The fruit spoils if kept for more than a day.
The Acai palm is native to Central and South America and grows abundantly in the Brazilian rainforests growing mainly in swamps and flood plains The tree grows to a height of over 80 feet though it is common to see them grow from 30 to 50 feet too. The stem or trunk of the tree is quite slender as compared to its height. The leaves are almost 10 feet long.
The Acai palm is mainly grown for its fruit and the palm hearts. The E. oleracea is primarily grown for the berry fruits while another species, E. edulis is grown for the hearts of palm. Hearts of palm are the inner core of the growing bud that are exposed when the outer bark is removed. This heart of palm is relished as a vegetarian delicacy.
The Acai palm bears fruit twice a year. It is also called "The tree of life".
The Acai Fruit
The Acai fruit is a small blueberry sized purple-black drupe that grows on several branched panicles each bearing hundreds of fruits. Acai tastes like a blend of red wine and chocolates.
Since the fruit is much perishable it cannot be transported over long distances and for this reason, its pulp is frozen. It is also sold as juice, beverages and smoothies.
It is also used in dietary supplements and tablets, capsules, energy bars made from it are also available. It is also used in cosmetics.
The amazon rainforest is considered the "lungs of the world" as it is the source of about 20% of the Earth's oxygen. It is home to more than half of the Earth's estimated 10 million species of plants and animals.
Native Amazon people routinely consume about 2000 of the 3000 known rainforest fruits of which Acai is one. Acai constitutes a large part, almost 40%, of the diet of these people.
In Brazil, Acai is sold by vendors on beaches and served like frozen icecream.
Acai has been touted as a cure-all superfood or a superfruit and is heavily marketed in the U.S. as a health food. However, Acai berries still have not been added to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
This fact apart, I will try to list the health benefits of Acai fruit along with references I have found while researching on this topic.
Dr Perricone, the world-renowned healthy ageing expert, a board-certified dermatologist and award-winning inventor, rates Acai as the number one superfood. He mentions it as such in his book, "The Perricone Promise".
Acai Berries Nutrition
- Acai pulp has 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times more antioxidants than red wine. Its concentration of antioxidants is 5 times more than that of Gingko Biloba, the brain herb.
- Acai is high in dietary fibre. 100 grams of acai berry contains,12 mg of calcium, 11.8 mg of iron, 2.4 g of proteins, 9 mg of vitamin C, 58 mg of phosphorus, 1000 IU Vitamin A, 0.36 mg Vitamin B1, 0.01 mg Vitamin B2 and 0.40 mg Vitamin B3,
- Acai contains good amounts of plant sterols - the phytosterols.
- Acai contains high amounts of essential fatty acids, the healthy fat constitutes 1/3 of the berry. Of this 74% are the healthy omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fats.
- Acai has the highest ORAC value among all edible fruits which means it has the highest concentration of antioxidants.
- It is low in sugar.
- Acai is extremely rich in vegetable protein which is digested easily and transported faster than the proteins in milk or meat.
Acai Brazilian Dish
Acai Berries Health Benefits
The high amount of dietary fibre corrects digestive and colon problems and is, therefore, a boon those with weak digestion like the elderly.
Acai makes the eyes healthy, improves vision, especially night vision and reduces the risk of macular degeneration.
It improves skin tone, keeps skin younger and healthier, increases energy and vitality.
Because of its dietary fibre, the antioxidants' anti-inflammatory benefits and the healthy unsaturated omega fatty acids, it lowers cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of hypertension, blood clots, relax blood vessels, prevents atherosclerosis, heart disease and cancer.
The phytosterols reduce prostate enlargement. It also improves the health of ovaries and prevents breast cancer.
The omega fatty acids keep the nervous system healthy and help in cell regeneration. They help to repair and rejuvenate muscles after exercise. It is, therefore, a favourite with Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters and surfers.
Acai berries improve libido and are called Amazon's viagra.
It reduces fasting blood glucose and insulin levels.
A study done by the University of Florida and reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals that Acai berries triggered a self-destructive response in up to 86% of the cancer cells.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
"Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future"; David Wolfe; 2009
"A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for the Body and Spirit"; Stephanie Rose Bird; 2009
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The acai berry takes Brazil by storm
The Power of Acai
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly