When we talk about superfoods, the most common names that we get are eggs, legumes, leafy greens etc. Superfoods have now created such a hype that everyone around wants to be a clean eater. So the superfood for the focus today is the Brazilian Acai Berries.
But first, let’s get to the basics of what a superfood really is?
Food items that are mostly plant-based but also some fish and dairy- thought to be nutritionally dense and are good for an individual’s health are called “superfoods”. Superfoods are basically food that has immense health benefits.
Superfoods contain a variety of nutrients and antioxidants. They also contain healthy fats, thought to prevent heart diseases, fibre; thought to prevent diabetes and digestive problems. Superfoods are also rich in Phytochemicals- the chemicals in plants responsible for deep colours and smells, which have numerous health benefits.
Acai (Ah-Sigh-EE) berries are native to central and South America, especially Brazil where they grow in parts of the Amazon rainforest. The botanical name of Acai palm is Euterpe oleracea. Acai berries are also referred to as Brazilian beauty berries. Açaí palm trees can grow as high as 60 feet in the rainforest. The fruits are around 1-2 cm in diameter and are of deep purple colour.
The taste of berries is described as a blend of chocolate and berries, with a slight metallic aftertaste.
The Acai berries have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit. These are high in fat and low in sugar. They also contain some of the trace minerals such as zinc, chromium, iron and so on. Acai berries contain very little protein but contain 19 amino acids. They also contain sterols like campesterol, stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol. Acai berries are also loaded with fibres.
- Loaded with antioxidants:
Most berries contain antioxidants. The antioxidant effects of acai berries have been attributed to phenolic compounds. The acai berry contains more antioxidants than any other berry-like blueberry, strawberry and cranberry. Antioxidants may protect the body’s cells from getting damaged by oxidative processes. When cells are oxidised in the body, their membranes are damaged. This results in the creation of free-radicals. These free-radicals take away electrons from other healthy cells. Antioxidant anthocyanin, which is abundant in Acai berries, lowers oxidative stress and inflammation, promoting brain health. Thus, acai berries, by protecting against oxidation, prevent heart diseases, diabetes and other conditions linked to ageing. Acai berries have also shown to enhance and improve memory. Moreover, antioxidant-rich diets have shown to lower the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
- Improve Heart Health:
These berries (Acai) contain high levels of important fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids are essential for good health. They are all said to prevent conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol. A study has shown that consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women.
- Possess Anticancerous properties:
Anthocyanins have also been observed to engage in anticarcinogenic activities. The antioxidant prevents cancer cell proliferation, induce cancer cell death and prevent cancer cell invasion. Acai berries are a good source of antioxidants, healthy fats and fibre. There are claims that they help in weight loss, arthritis and removing toxins from the body.
MODE OF CONSUMPTION
Acai berries can be mainly consumed in three forms – puree, juice and concentrated powder form. The process of acquiring Acai berries is long and the berries can be spoilt easily it is difficult to export them in their raw form. As an export, they are sold as frozen fruit puree, dried powder or pressed juice.
The juiced form is rich in antioxidants but contains a load amount of sugar and lacks fibre, balancing out the goodness in the juice. The powdered form, on the other hand, provide the concentrated amounts of nutrients. But when it comes to enjoying the real flavour, puree form is the one to be used. It can be used as a topping or can be blended into a smoothie.
Whenever we talk about the health benefits of any food product, it is our duty to throw some light on the negative side of the product if any.
Talking about the drawbacks, although these berries seem to be a powerhouse of nutrients, yet very little research data is present to prove their effect on human health.
And whenever you buy these in their processed form, do check the ingredients beforehand, for any additives.
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