As one of the most popular superfoods available today, you’ve likely seen the various health benefits of acai advertised in juices, supplements, and even skin products. But for those wondering “what is acai?” Better Health has compiled the ultimate guide to understanding this exotic berry. From a simple acai definition to reviewing its many benefits, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular acai products and where to buy to them.
Acai berries are small and round, ranging in color from a light green when immature to a deep purple when ripe. This edible fruit has a single large seed and contains 2.4% protein and 5.9% fat by weight.1,3
As an exotic delicacy, many wonder what does acai taste like?
Pure acai is often described as tasting like a blend of berries, marked with rich chocolatey notes. Its juice is viscous, adding a velvety texture when to juice blends.
If you’re wondering how to pronounce acai, you’re not alone. The word “acai” comes from the Portuguese and Tupi-Guaraní language family.ometimes written as “açai” or even “asai”, the correct pronunciation of acai is “ah-sigh-EE”, with stress placed on the last syllable.4
The word “acai” is used to refer to the fruit itself, to the palm that produces it (Euterpe oleracea), and to Brazilian beverage made from the acai berry.
Traditionally, acai has been used as both a staple food and a medicinal plant for treating fevers, parasitic infections, skin complications, and digestive disorders.2 A long-time component of South American diets, acai surged into popularity in North America in 2008 after being featured on the Oprah Winfrey show.1
Since then, many acai-based products have filled the shelves in gourmet grocery and supplement stores. Many acai products have claimed to offer anti-aging benefits, support weight loss, enhance sleep, improve sexual performance, and more. Among the many acai health benefits under scientific review, the most notable include:
- When measured for its antioxidant activity on the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), acai berries registered as the highest level of any food examined by the USDA.6 In the body, antioxidants help protect the body against damaging free radicals, and may help lower the risk of various chronic diseases.
- Acai does appear to have a beneficial effect on certain metabolic risk factors. For example, one study found that overweight participants who consumed acai during the length of the study showed reduced cholesterol, insulin and fasting glucose levels.3
- Nutrients found in acai include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and thiamine. Acai berries have also been noted to contain fiber and omega fatty acids.4
- Acai berries have been found to contain high levels of polyphenols. In multiple studies, polyphenols have been noted to contain potent anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, antioxidant and cardioprotective properties.2
If you’d like to add acai to your diet, it’s easy to get started with acai berry powder which can be used to make a delicious, acai smoothie or flavored water. Since acai powder is a relatively new form of acai, it may be tricky to figure out where to buy acai powder.
Among a number of brands, Sambazon Acai is one of the most-recommended brands, offering a selection of USDA organic acai products ranging from frozen acai sorbet to acai energy drinks, powders, and juices. Based in California, they distribute some products to natural health stores, including Whole Foods. However, the full line of Sambazon products are available online.
Similar to pomegranate juice, acai berry juice another form to enjoy the benefits of acai berries. Richly textured, this dark purple fruit juice is easy to easy to drink on its own, or add to smoothies. Look for pure, organic juices from brands like Acai Roots, which is made in the U.S.A, non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free. Acai Roots can be found in both Whole Foods and Costco, and can be purchased in bulk on Amazon.
Acai Smoothie Packs
In addition to juices and powders, keep your eyes out for acai puree—often sold as acai smoothie packs. Purees are particularly convenient, as you can use them to create your own acai-bowl at home and can be stored in either the fridge or the freezer for months. Simply add a smoothie pack to the blender along with yogurt and blueberries or strawberries to whip up a nutritious berry acai blend.
For added benefits, swap out yogurt for kefir for additional gut-healthy probiotics.
Recently, acai berry pills are available as tablets and capsules containing acai in concentrated, powdered form. These convenient acai supplements are a cost-effective way to get a concentrated form of acai and its numerous health benefits. Easy to take, tablets and capsules are great for people on the go and perfect for those who travel and want to maintain their daily intake of antioxidants.
Where to Buy Acai
For those excited by the benefits of acai and are wondering where to buy acai berry products, various local food co-ops, gourmet food stores, and large international retailers like Whole Foods and Costco may carry acai products.
As a relatively new ingredient in the North American diet, limited forms of acai may be available. For those interested in a wide variety of acai brands and products such as acai powders, frozen acai purees and even chocolate covered acai berries, an incredible selection is now offered through online retailers, such as Amazon. Online shopping allows customers the ability to buy in bulk at affordable prices. Many products are available with international shipping right to your doorstep.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Marcason, W. (2009) What Is the Açaí Berry and Are There Health Benefits? Journal of the American Dietetic Association.1968. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.09.017
- Heinrichab, M., Dhanjia, T., & Casselmana, I. (2010) Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.)—A phytochemical and pharmacological assessment of the species’ health claims. Elsevier Phytochemistry Letters, 4 (1), 10-21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phytol.2010.11.005
- Udani, J., Singh, B., Singh, V., & Barrett, M. (2011) Effects of Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: A pilot study. BioMed Central Nutrition Journal. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-45
- Mayo Clinic. (2015, March 25). What are acai berries, and what are their possible health benefits? Retrieved September 15, 2017 from – View Reference
- Acai. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved September 15, 2017 from Dictionary.com website – View Reference
- Shahidi, F. (2013). Açai Fruits: Potent Antioxidant and Anti‐Inflammatory Superfruits with Potential Health Benefits. In Functional Food Science and Technology series(pp. 393-413). Retrieved September 15, 2017 from http://ca.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0813811732.html