What is Acai: Benefits, Nutrition and Taste
One of the hottest food trends today is the acai bowl. This is a Brazilian treat that features one of the world’s superfoods. The treat looks and tastes like your favorite ice cream. The best part of it is that you can also turn it into a healthy breakfast bowl. So, what is acai anyway? And what benefits can you derive from this type of berry?
What is Acai?
Acai comes from the acai palm. It is indigenous to Brazil, Suriname, and Peru in South America. The Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago also produces this type of palm. These trees are tall and slender and can grow up to 82 feet tall. It produces fruits that look like grapes, only smaller. They also contain less pulp. Their appearance prompted people to call the fruits berries; hence, acai berries.
Acai is a staple in the communities that line the floodplains and swamps of these countries for many centuries. It was only in the 1990s when countries outside of its native land began consuming acai berry for its many health benefits.
Is it Nutritious?
People consider acai to be a superfood. This is because it is nutrient-dense and contains polyphenols. A single teaspoon of freeze-dried acai powder can contain 20 calories, more than two-thirds of which come from fat. Don’t worry about the term ‘fat’ as acai contains healthy fatty acids. They include linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid.
This fruit also contain 19 amino acids. This is despite the almost-negligible amount of protein that it contains. There are also sterols such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol. Acai berry also contains polyphenols, like proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins.
If you consider blueberries to be superfoods, then the fruits of the acai palm are your super-superfoods. This is because they have a higher Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity score than blueberries. Whereas blueberries only have an ORAC score of 4,669, acai fruits have an ORAC score of 15,405. That is almost four times the antioxidant capabilities of blueberries.
What Benefits Do Acai Berries Provide?
The benefits of eating an acai bowl are related to the more powerful antioxidant properties of the fruit. Here are a few of the health benefits that this superfood can provide:
- Promotes Heart Health
The polyphenol anthocyanin is known for protecting the body against oxidative stress. It can help lower your risk of heart attack by as much as 32 percent. The fiber found in acai berries can also support the optimal function of the heart. The different fatty acids can also reduce the level of bad cholesterol, while increasing the level of good cholesterol. All of these can translate to a healthier cardiovascular system.
- Improves Cognitive Function
One of the known effects of oxidative stress is chronic inflammation. If these inflammatory processes occur in the brain, one can experience a decline in cognitive functions. The different nutrients and substances in acai can help protect the brain. At the same time, they can also improve the overall function of the brain. These substances can activate the more efficient signaling at the synapses, while preventing inflammation in the neural network. Antioxidants can also improve the flow of blood to the neural tissues, further improving cognitive processes.
- Protects against Some Cancer
There are several ways acai can help protect against certain forms of cancer. It can induce the death of cancer cells, at the same time work to inhibit the development of tumors. Its antioxidant properties can also reduce inflammatory processes associated with tumor growth. Acai can prevent the proliferation of cancerous cells and their invasion into healthy, normal cells and tissues. Also, it is possible that the fruit of the acai palm can also activate certain enzymes that play a role in controlling cancer growth.
- Speeds Up Recovery from Exercise-Induced Muscle Injuries
Acai cannot improve the performance of athletes and sports-minded individuals. However, there are studies that show acai can be beneficial in speeding up the recovery of muscle injuries related to exercise. It can also improve the lipid profiles of athletes. This allows them to build more cardiovascular stamina.
What Does Acai Taste Like?
It is quite difficult to describe the taste of acai berry. Some say it is somewhere between a dark chocolate and a rich raspberry or blackberry. The hint of chocolate tends to be noticeable as an aftertaste. Some also say that this superfood is rich and has a tropical flavor to it. There are people who consider the taste refreshing, while others say it is bitter and grainy.
Regardless of what it tastes like, you know that an acai bowl is good for you. Its antioxidant properties are enough to make you want to include in your regular treats.