Açaí berries are grape-like or blueberry-like fruits that come from palm trees in the tropical rainforests of South America. They are often promoted as a superfood and contain antioxidants (which can protect your body from harmful substances called free radicals), fiber, and healthy fatty acids.
Açaí is slightly acidic and is usually sold as a frozen puree, dried powder, or juice; it is unusual to find fresh berries. Açaí is commonly used to make smoothies or bowls.
Acai berries are 1-inch round fruits that grow on palm trees in the rain forests of Central and South America. They have dark purple skin and yellow flesh that surrounds a large seed. They contain seeds like apricots and olives, but they are not a berry, but a drupe. However, they are commonly known as berries.
In the Amazon rainforest, acai berries often accompany meals. To make them edible, they are soaked to soften the tough outer skin and then mashed to form a deep purple paste. They have an earthy flavor that is often described as a cross between blueberries and sugar-free chocolate.
Fresh acai berries have a short shelf life and are not available outside of where they are grown. As an export, they are sold as frozen fruit puree, dried powder, or pressed juice. They are also sometimes used to flavor food products, including jelly beans and ice cream.
The açaí berries themselves, which spoil quickly. The version being imported is usually available in three forms:
- Powder: Bags of açaí powder are available in most supermarkets. This powder can be mixed into smoothies, bowls, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, and other dishes. It usually contains a concentrated amount of nutrients and fiber.
- Purée: it is usually sold frozen and is usually especially tasty. It is popular for making smoothies.
- Juice: Açaí juice is often mixed with other fruits, such as pomegranate or blueberry. We’ll check the label to make sure no extra sugar has been added.
Acai berries have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit in that they are somewhat high in fat and low in sugar. These berries are not a significant source of any vitamins or minerals.
For every 100 grams of açai puree we find:
- Energy: 60 calories
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 6 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugars: 0 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Sodium: 7mg
- Potassium: 105mg
- Iron: 0.6mg
- Calcium: 35mg
A 100-gram serving of açai puree typically contains 6 grams of carbohydrates. It has 3 grams of fiber, and is free of sugar. It also provides 5 grams of fat for every 100 grams of açaí berries. The fruit is rich in polyunsaturated fats (4.4 grams), including fatty acids such as oleic, palmitic and linoleic. Also, it contains 2 grams of protein per 100 grams, so fruit should not be the main source of protein.
A 100-gram serving contains about 0.6 milligrams of iron or 3.5% of the daily value, 35 mg of calcium (2.6%), and 105 mg of potassium (2.2%).
In the same amount it only provides 60 calories. A similar amount (110 ml) of açaí juice has about the same number of calories.
Many fruits and vegetables offer a variety of health benefits, and açai is no exception.
Helps lose weight
Although this fruit may fit into a weight loss plan, there is no research to support claims that it alone promotes rapid weight loss. However, it contains zero grams of sugar, which is remarkable for a fruit. That means that if we are following a low carbohydrate diet, açai is a good way to include fruits in the diet. To sweeten things up, we’ll add a sugar-free sweetener.
Even if we’re following a ketogenic diet, we can still include this fruit, as it contains only one gram of net carbs, allowing us to get much-needed fiber.
Rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants are important because they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body. If free radicals are not neutralized by antioxidants, they can damage cells and lead to a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
This fruit has an incredibly high amount of antioxidants, surpassing other antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries and cranberries. The antioxidant content of foods is usually measured by an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity score.
This antioxidant activity comes from various plant compounds in the acai, including anthocyanins. Both the açai pulp and the applesauce raised the antioxidant levels of the participants, which means that the antioxidant compounds are well absorbed in the intestine.
Animal studies have suggested that it might help improve cholesterol levels by lowering total and LDL cholesterol. And it’s possible that it could have a similar effect in humans.
One study had 10 overweight adults drink açai shakes twice a day for a month. Overall, they had lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol at the end of the study.
Although more research is needed, it is possible that the anthocyanins in açai may be responsible for the positive impact on cholesterol levels, as studies have linked this plant compound to improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol. In addition, acai contains plant sterols, which prevent the body from absorbing cholesterol.
How is it taken?
Since fresh acai berries have a short shelf life, they are mainly exported and widely available in three main forms: purees, powders, and juices.
The juice is loaded with antioxidants, but it’s also the highest in sugar and lacking in fiber. Although, if filtered, the juice may contain fewer antioxidants. The powder provides the most concentrated amount of nutrients, giving you fiber and fat, as well as plant compounds.
That said, pureeing is probably the best way to enjoy the flavor of açai. To make an açai bowl, we will mix the unsweetened frozen puree with water or milk to make it a smoothie-like base for toppings. Toppings can include sliced fruit, shredded coconut, nut butters, cacao nibs, or chia seeds.
We can also make a bowl with açai powder. We can mix it with our favorite smoothie recipe and then top it with our favorite toppings.
There is no recommended amount of açaí. But many bowl or smoothie recipes call for two frozen blended packets. It can be an expensive ingredient, so using a single packet is recommended to stretch it further. What matters is that we enjoy eating it.