Plenty of superfoods are gaining momentum and popularity nowadays. This makes it difficult to decide which one to try out first. Well, let’s make the choice a little easier. How about the acai berry? The acai berry is one a very useful and helpful superfood. The acai berry benefits are numerous. Also, this superfood is easy to find in your local supermarkets and health-food stores.
What Is the Acai Berry?
The acai (pronounced as ah-sigh-ee) berry is an indigenous deep purple berry. It grows in clusters on top of acai palm trees commonly found in the Amazon rain forests.
It’s shaped like a grape. The taste of the acai berry is described as a blend between wild berries and chocolate. It is a major staple food of many indigenous tribes.
Where Did the Name Come From?
Legend speaks of an Amazon Indian girl named Iaça (ee-ah-sah). She was the daughter of a tribal chief. Their tribe was devastated by a sudden famine. There wasn’t enough food for everyone. To save his people, the chief decreed that all newborn babies must be killed. This was because there was not enough food to feed them all.
Soon thereafter, Iaça gave birth to a beautiful girl. Unfortunately, not even the chief’s granddaughter could escape the somber decree.
Iaça grieved the loss of her beautiful daughter for months. She could not stop crying. One night, Iaça heard the cry of a child. She hurried toward the sound. She soon came upon a tall slender palm tree. At the top of the tree, Iaça could see clusters of dark fruit. At the bottom of the tree, she saw her daughter waiting for her with open arms.
Iaça ran toward the vision. She reached out to embrace her child, and she was overcome with so much joy. She then died happily beneath the tree.
The next day, the chief went looking for his beloved daughter. He soon found her under the tree. She had a smile across her face. From the way she was positioned, she was looking up to the sky. He followed her gaze up the tree and saw the dark purple fruit.
The chief immediately ordered the fruits to be harvested by his people. They soon discovered that a juice could be extracted from the berries that would satisfy the hunger of the whole tribe.
The chief’s decree was soon lifted. Out of gratitude to Iaça, the fruit of the palm tree that saved the tribe was known as açaí (Iaça spelled backward).
With abundant food for all, the tribe grew and flourished.
History of the Acai Berry
Tribes found in the Amazon basin were the first to enjoy the acai berry benefits. These tribes had medicine men and women, and they believed the acai berry had numerous medicinal properties. The Amazon tribes used this berry as energy food. They also believed that it could boost the immune system, fight infection, protect the heart, and control prostate enlargement. They also discovered that they could make wine from the berry.
From Obscurity to the Mainstream
Acai evolved from obscurity of the rain forests into the cities of Brazil. Brazilians soon used them to add to healthy smoothies.
The Western world was introduced to the acai berry benefits around the 1900s. Surfers and sports people claimed that it boosted their energy levels. Scientists then made some studies. They found out that acai berry benefits were indeed plenty.
The acai berry is perishable and must be consumed within 24 hours. Therefore, Americans and Europeans enjoy it in juice or tea form instead.
Acai Berry Nutrition Content
The acai berry is loaded with nutrients. It has dietary fiber, essential amino acids, and healthy fats (monounsaturated fats and omega fatty acids). Aside from that, it also contains antioxidants (polyphenols, anthocyanins, and vitamins A, CE, and E), vitamins B1, B2, and B3, electrolytes (manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium), trace minerals (calcium, copper, iron, zinc), and plant sterols (campesterol, beta-sitosterol, sigmasterol).
Acai Berry Benefits
Maintains Cardiovascular Health
Studies show that the regular intake of acai berry juice has positive effects on blood lipid levels and can protect the heart.
The plant sterols in acai berries act as vasodilators. These are agents that relax the blood vessels. This in turn reduces blood pressure, reduces blood clots (which can cause strokes and heart attacks), and improves the circulation and oxygenation of the blood.
The high amount of antioxidants also add to the acai berry benefits. How? They eliminate the harmful free radicals that enter the body. These free radicals are responsible for heart disease. In addition, these antioxidants can reduce blood cholesterol by removing some harmful LDL cholesterol off artery walls. This then reduces the risk of stroke, atherosclerosis, and heart attack.
Helps in Weight Loss
The high fiber content this berry possesses reduces the appetite. It can also stop hunger pangs linked with overeating and weight gain. It too helps to cleanse the colon and improve sluggish digestion.
The acai berry can stimulates weight loss, and it can also help maintain a healthy weight. It reduces the negative effects of high-fat diets. One credible study showed that 30 days of using acai berries resulted to a reduction in total cholesterol and a lower level of fasting insulin and glucose levels.
Used as Brain Food
Acai juice can increase mental function and sharpness of mind. The acai berry has protective effects over brain cells, which can improve cognitive functions. Vitamin B can also contribute to the maintenance of mental function.
Has Cancer Prevention Properties
Properties of the acai berry target the underlying cause of cancer formation. These are harmful free radicals and inflammation.
The acai berry is high in vitamin C and ellagic acid. These can suppress the growth of cancer. A published study also found that polyphenolic compounds in acai berries reduced cancer cell increase. Its phytochemicals can also stop the process of carcinogenesis on a molecular level. This kills of tumorous cells before they can multiply.
Improves Skin Health
A lot of beauty products contain acai oil due to its high antioxidant content. Consuming plenty of antioxidants helps repair skin cells faster, providing a more youthful appearance.
Since ancient times, people have been using acai either topically or internally to prevent skin degradation and to keep skin smooth and healthy. The ingestion of acai berries also provides your skin an attractive glow from within. Acai oil helps get rid of fine lines, dark spots, wrinkles, stretch marks, scars, discoloration, and sagginess.
The acai berry contains no sugar. However, it has a high level of essential fatty acids that are slow-releasing. This makes it an ideal food for endurance sports that consider energy and stamina necessary.
Also, the antioxidant properties in the acai berry helps the body recuperate faster after a round of strenuous exercise. In can also combat fatigue and exhaustion. In addition, this helpful berry replenishes the body with valuable electrolytes.
Promotes Good Digestion
Another of the acai berry benefits is that it helps in digestion. The acai berry contains detoxification properties. Too, it has a high dietary fiber content. It is also a natural digestive cleanser. It helps the liver and kidneys to process and remove waste and toxins from the body.
It’s also a great colon cleanser. It prevents the accumulation of harmful substances and undigested matter from staying in the colon, where they can cause constipation and other digestive problems. This therefore speeds up bowel transit time, preventing foods from fermenting in the intestines as this can cause gas, bloating, and constipation.
If you suffer from LBM or diarrhea, eating acai berries can help as they give more bulk to the waste and reduce the chances of diarrhea.