A bit about acai
Acai berries, previously considered an exotic fruit, have now become a virtual staple in almost every supermarket’s collection of health foods and supplements.
No longer the sole preserve of health stores and delis, these nutrient-dense berries have become increasingly popular in the form of dietary supplements, food powders, shakes and juice boosters. But why?
This growth in use and popularity is in no small part due to the significant media attention they have received, since being more widely recognised in the West as a “superfruit”. In other words, a fruit with an exceptionally high nutrient-to-calorie ratio compared to other fruits of a similar kind. For example, in terms of antioxidant, essential fatty acid, vitamin or mineral content.
Although having only just relatively recently entered the wider public consciousness, South Americans native to the Amazon have been enjoying the health benefits of these tasty berries for many years. In fact, they are considered to be an essential food source for three traditional Caboclo populations in the Brazilian Amazon, because they make up a major component of their diet – up to 42% of their total food intake by weight! A fact which reflects their incredibly high nutrient content.
Found only in swampy areas of the Amazon rainforest (Central and South America), acai berries are pretty rare – which explains why they hadn’t popped up on supermarket shelves before. They are small and round (approximately 25mm in size) and grow on large palm trees called açaí palms, which can reach over 80 feet in height. The berries grow in bunches (similar to bananas) and an average açaí palm tree can yield between 3 to 8 bunches of berries.
Once ripe, acai berries bear a strong resemblance to grapes and blueberries, except that they are not quite as pulpy. They contain a large, inedible seed, which constitutes as much as 90% of the entire fruit – yet another reason they weren’t more widely cultivated as a culinary fruit.
As mentioned above, although hard to find in their natural whole food form, everyone can now fortunately access the nutritional benefits of these berries on a daily basis through the convenience of health supplements. Food-based powders and food form supplement capsules now often incorporate both acai berry powder and concentrated extract. But why might you want to incorporate acai berry nutrients into your daily diet?
Immune system support:
A big clue to their high nutrient content is given away by the deep blue / purple colour of acai berries. Like most other brightly coloured foods found in nature, they contain natural pigments, which support immunity, health and vitality. For example, flavonoids and potent antioxidants (such as anthocyanins). They are also a rich source of Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids (healthy fats).
Heart health support:
As well as containing high levels of anthocyanins, research has also shown that acai berries are rich in phytosterols, which may provide cardio-protective support for our cells.
Relatively speaking, acai berries contain high levels of plant protein. Combined with their high levels of antioxidants and other nutrients, they can offer ideal support for high energy levels, stamina and general vitality.
Weight management support:
When trying to shape up, you are obviously looking to decrease your intake of high-calorie unhealthy foods, in favour of nutrient-packed foods that are naturally low in calories. Not only will this promote a healthy weight, it will also help to ensure that your general health remains strong during any periods of slimming and reduced food choice. In this way, acai berries can provide ideal weight management support as part of an overall balanced diet.
So now you know a little bit about why acai berries have been causing a stir in the natural health world. And these are just some of their nutritional benefits. Plus, if you favour an organic lifestyle or are trying to detox, it is worth bearing in mind that acai berries are wild harvested, as opposed to farmed. This means that they aren’t exposed to the harmful pesticides and fertilisers so often found in other fruit and vegetables.
They offer great all-round healthy living support, so why not try them for yourself!
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