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Acai Berry: Good For Your Health and Your Environment

Updated on June 26, 2011

The fruit that has healthy eaters of America grinning with purple teeth is acai, pronounced (ah-sigh-EE). If you haven’t heard, acai is a small, violet colored, round berry (slightly smaller than a grape) that sits high atop the often 90 foot-tall acai palm tree. It’s mostly found along the Amazon River in Brazil, but can be found all throughout Central and South America. Although locals have subsisted on the berry for centuries, it wasn't until recently that it became popular in the West. The truth is, this exotic berry is good for more reasons than one. Both for your health, and for the environment.


Acai berry
Acai berry

Acai Berry: Good For Your Health

As any local Brazilian will tell you, the acai palm is an important part of their daily diet. The pulp and skin of the berry are eaten nearly everyday, and have been for centuries. Similar to the taro root for Pacific Islanders, or the tortilla for Mexicans, the acai berry is a staple food in Brazilian diet. For us here in America, it’s a new and exotic fruit, packed with antioxidants, unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3s), and protein. Acai is a recent addition to the list of superfoods, those fruits rich in nutrients and antioxidants. In other words, super healthy. Other more familiar fruits on this list include pomegranates and blueberries.


Acai products

Many will blame the increase in acai's popularity on Oprah. After the berry made a brief TV appearance on her talk show, along with Dr. Oz, hundreds of companies came into existence touting elixirs, potions, supplements, creams and diets, all of course containing acai. Many of these companies claimed their acai product would cause rapid weight loss, increase energy, and even, enlarge a particular male organ.

In reality, these are only claims, and no evidence in the scientific community has been found to support them. WEBMD mentions that ”scientists are [still] learning more about the functional power of superfoods, such as the acai berry." And while there is no research proving acai's power to enlarge any organs, there is however, "plenty of research [that] supports eating a diet rich in antioxidants."

Be careful of false claims

The best way to get your dose of acai is not in a pill, but in a bowl. Cold acai served in a bowl and mixed with granola, known by locals as “acai na tigela,” is popular not only in southern Brazil, but could be in your kitchen as well. With minimal preparation, you can bless your body and your taste buds with an acai bowl. Below are some recipes for acai bowls that are easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

Acai bowl
Acai bowl

Acai bowl recipes

As leaders in acai, Sambazon are, not surprisingly, also leaders in tasty recipes. Below are some recipes for acai bowls that are easy to make and even easier to enjoy.

Zen Bowl

-2 packs Sambazon Pure Unsweetened Açaí

-1 ounce coconut water

-1 tsp Agave (or sweeten to taste)

-1 banana

-Raw nuts & dried fruit (optional)

1. Add Pure Açaí, agave, coconut water and half of the banana into blender.

2. Blend on high. Add more coconut water if necessary- but keep it thick.

3. Put it in a bowl and garnish with the other half of the banana.


Rio Bowl

-2 packs Sambazon Original Açaí

-1organic banana

-splash of apple juice or soy milk

-top with organic sliced bananas and granola

1. Add Original Açaí, apple juice or soy milk and half of the banana into blender.

2. Blend on high. Add more apple juice or soy milk if necessary- but keep it thick.

3. Put it in a bowl and garnish with granola and other half of the banana.


Yogi Bowl

-2 packs Sambazon Pure Unsweetened Açaí

-1 table spoon of flax seed oil

-1 table spoon of Amazing Grass Superfood Powder

-splash of soy milk

-Organic Hemp Granola (optional)

1. Add Pure Açaí, flax seed oil, Amazing Grass Superfood Powder and splash of soy milk into blender.

2. Blend on high. Add more soy milk if necessary- but keep it thick.

3. Put it in a bowl and top with organic hemp granola.


Gringo Bowl

-2 packs Sambazon Original Açaí

-1 organic banana

-2 handful of organic strawberries

-splash of apple juice or soy milk

1. Add Original Açaí, a splash of apple juice or soy milk and half of the strawberries into blender.

2. Blend on high. Add more apple juice or soy milk- but keep it thick.

3. Put it in a bowl and garnish with the other half of organic sliced strawberries.


How to make acai bowls

Ryan and Jeremy, Sambazon founders
Ryan and Jeremy, Sambazon founders

Sambazon

In early 2000, two Southern California brothers Ryan and Jeremy Black recognized the dietary and ecological importance of acai while on a surf trip to Brazil. After returning home, they began a company called Sambazon. In the beginning, the two were responsible for enlightening consumers about the health benefits, and deliciousness, of acai by bringing samples to nearly every juice bar and health food stores across the US. Today, they hold their own as leaders in acai products.

Sambazon brushes all copy-cats and scammers to the side, while furthering their company's success with integrity and passion. They continue to spread knowledge of their product while working together with local NGO’s in Brazil to keep the harvesting of acai sustainable, good for the environment, and profitable for local populations now, and for future generations. “The whole idea is to protect the biodiversity of the forest,” says brother Ryan Black on the Sambazon website. “We want to look back [in] 20 years and see that acai has been a positive force in the Amazon, not just a fruit that became domesticated and found success at the price of the local people and their environment.”


Acai and it's other uses

The acai palm is a provider, not only of antioxidant-packed berries, but much more. The heart of the palm itself is considered a local delicacy. The palm is also used as a medicine to treat such ailments as fevers and skin ulcers. As previously mentioned, acai is high in antioxidants, and that alone is a invaluable treatment. WebMd explains how high levels of antioxidants "may help prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress such as heart disease and cancer."

In it's native Amazon, the leaves of the acai palm are woven together to make hats, mats, baskets, brooms and roofs for homes. It’s trunk is processed for it's mineral content. These additional uses of the acai palm only serve to solidify it's value within the rainforest.

Collecting and shipping acai berries
Collecting and shipping acai berries

Acai Berry: Good For Your Environment

The Amazon rainforest. We know it as the largest and most biologically diverse forest in the world. We also know it, unfortunately, as a region constantly under threat of destruction by our fellow man. As the demand for acai-toting products continues to rise in the US, enterprising Brazilian farmers do their best to match the supply. This can't be good for untouched rainforest, which are now being slashed and burned to make room for acai trees, can it? Au contraire mon frere...

Unlike most industries throughout the Brazilian rainforest like oil and gas extraction, cattle farming, logging and mining, the cultivation of acai is rather beneficial. Patrick J. McDonnell in a 2008 LA Times article says it's “because of acai, the jungle is more valuable standing than felled.” Not to mention, it’s an important and “renewable resource that provides a sustainable livelihood for tens of thousands of subsistence harvesters without damaging the expanses of the Amazon,” McDonnell also notes. As for those areas of the forest already destroyed, Ben-Hur Borges, a forest engineer and acai entrepreneur says "[acai] is the ideal native plant to help rebuild degraded forests." While most industries reliant on the Amazon for profit would threaten it's very existence, acai is a delight. Not only to mother Nature, but local Brazilians, as well as a few American entrepreneurs.

Young Brazilian climbing an acai palm
Young Brazilian climbing an acai palm

Comments

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    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      7 years ago from California

      BlissfulWriter - Thanks for sharing...and reading.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 

      7 years ago

      I drink acai juice for its anti-oxidant qualities.

    • jdaviswrites profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Davis 

      7 years ago from California

      Jill - Everything is just that much more amazing when it's made with love... :)

      Genna East - You're very welcome. Glad I could provide some insight.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I have heard about this wonder fruit for some time, and after having read this hub, I will definitely try it. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Jill 

      7 years ago

      I suggest asking your significant other to make you one of the above acai concoctions...it tastes that much more amazing.

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