Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) remained one of the Amazon’s best kept secrets for centuries, when the palm’s nourishing fruit was used only by locals. Now, acai berry is recognized worldwide as a superfood with an unbelievable antioxidant content. Although acai’s rise to fame came with exaggerated health claims, the berries do have a lot to offer your health and diet.
Acai is an antioxidant powerhouse—and one of the most promising natural sources of antioxidant polyphenols! Your body relies on dietary sources of antioxidants to help protect against free radicals, which are formed naturally in the body and increase during stress or exposure to pollution. Your body also needs dietary antioxidants to stimulate its own internal antioxidants to fight cellular aging and age-related disease. Perking up your antioxidant intake can be as simple as adding a splash of acai juice to your ice water.
Supports digestive health
It’s no wonder acai cleanses are trending. Adding just 100 g of the berry pulp to your smoothie provides 15 percent of your recommended daily fiber, including insoluble fiber, which works as a prebiotic to promote a healthy gut microflora. Animal studies also suggest that acai can increase the liver’s ability to eliminate cholesterol and triglycerides from the body, as well as support kidney function in cleansing toxins from the blood.
When the body’s delicate balance between antioxidants and free radicals becomes uneven, it increases inflammation, which is an underlying factor in many chronic illnesses. This is why rich sources of antioxidants, such as acai berry, have earned their title as superfoods—and eating them regularly is directly linked to better health. A group of health-conscious women who added 200 g per day of acai pulp to their diets were found to lower some markers of inflammation by as much as 44 percent.
Protects heart health
Acai berries are packed with cardio-protective nutrients, including heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, plant sterols, polyphenols, and dietary fiber. These nutrients support cardiovascular health by helping to balance inflammation in the body and promoting healthy cholesterol metabolism and blood pressure. A Brazilian nutritional survey found that women who did not eat acai regularly were more likely to have high blood pressure.
Nourishes the body
Whether you sip on the juice, blend the powder into smoothies, or supplement with an extract, acai packs a strong nutritional punch. The berries are made up of a whopping 13 percent protein and 14 percent monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids—with only 1.5 percent sugar! In addition to their outstanding antioxidant profile, acai berries are a fantastic source of vitamins B1 and E, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium to help keep your electrolytes up.
Improves metabolic stats
Acai berry may not live up to its exaggerated weight loss claims, but it can help people who are overweight lower their risk of weight-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Studies show that overweight adults who supplement with acai daily have better control over their blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Supports brain health
The brain’s heavy oxygen use and high fat content makes it vulnerable to oxidative stress, which is an underlying factor in declining brain function as we age. Anthocyanins, such as those highly concentrated in acai berry, are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, where they act directly on brain neurons to protect them against oxidative stress and inflammation. Eating an anthocyanin-rich diet supports a well-functioning network of neurons in areas of the brain that control learning and memory.
Improves exercise recovery
Acai can rev up your antioxidant status and your workouts. Hurdlers who drank 100 mL of acai-based juice daily for six weeks lowered the muscle damage they sustained from 300 m sprints. Some markers of muscle damage dropped by as much as 22 percent. Also, cyclists improved their aerobic capacity by 29 percent (measured as blood lactate levels) after only two weeks supplementing with acai pulp. Try kicking up your post-workout snack with this fruity Acai Bowl.
Fuels the immune system
When it comes to fueling your immune system, vitamin C and the flavonoid quercetin really stand out—and they’re both in acai. Vitamin C increases the activity of white blood cells and antibodies that protect against infection and heal wounds, while quercetin has anti-allergic properties and the ability to deactivate some viruses. Give your immune system an extra boost with a tablespoon of acai powder stirred into your morning oatmeal!
Helps manage pain
Your diet plays a major role in pain management—especially when you eat foods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits like acai. One study found that drinking acai juice daily for as little as two weeks significantly lowered the amount of pain felt by people with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and other painful inflammatory conditions. It also made a big difference in their ability to move and go about daily activities.