The acai fruit that comes from South America has become more popular among health buffs these years. But what is this fruit? What does it do? Is it really a weight-loss wonder just as some advertisements claim? Acai berries are also touted as a superfood with anti-aging property. However, do they really live up to the hype?
What Is Acai Berry?
Acai berry is the fruit of a palm tree called Euterpe oleracea. This tall, slender tree is native to South America, and the trees are often found surrounding the Amazon River. This tree also provides the "hearts of palm," which is harvested and shipped worldwide, although the fruit remains part of the more local tradition. Acai is similar to grapes and blueberries, being small and reddish purple in color. The drupe consists of a cluster of edible seeds, with a taste that is similar to chocolate and wild berries.
What Are the Health Benefits of Acai Berry?
Actually, acai benefits come from the substances it contains, which are called flavonoids and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are chemical substances that come from many plants and are responsible for the purple, blue, and red hues found in the fruits like bluberries, grapes, and flowers. Research shows that anthocyanins and flavonoids found in acai berries may have antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from oxidative damage that can lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Some studies show that acai berry has very high antioxidant activity that is even more powerful than that found in raspberry, blackberry, cranberry, blueberry, or strawberry. This has inspired many health-seeking individuals to take acai berry as a supplement to their diet. However, studies are ongoing, and there is much still to be learned about the benefits of acai berries. But so far, they have no known benefit that is any different than that of other similar fruits. And more studies are needed to provide solid evidence that acai berry can prevent cancer and other diseases.
Does Acai Berry Really Help with Weight Loss?
Some advertisements tout that one of the many acai benefits is weight loss. Scientists are still looking for more evidence about the functional power of such foods like the acai berry. Although acai berry is among the popular weight loss products, very few studies have been done to test if acai berry can actually promote weight loss and the effect is not proven.
Experts agree that eating richly-colored fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet that can help promote weight loss, but these must be taken in combination with a balanced diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.
So What Is the Bottom Line of Eating Acai Berry?
Most health care providers will agree that there is no miracle superfood that will guarantee weight loss. However, acai berries, just like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and other richly colorful fruits, are good foods to include in your diet. When eaten moderately, acai berry is likely safe as long as you are not allergic to it. However, if you are consuming products such as health supplements that contain acai, be aware that these may have other ingredients, like added sugar or caffeine that can also affect your health.
If you are planning to take large amounts of acai that is higher than you would normally eat as food, such as in dietary supplements, it's best to first consult your doctor. People who have some health conditions like kidney or liver disease, or are taking medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol should check with their doctor first before using acai berry supplements, since these can interact with these conditions and medications. It is also important to know that eating large amounts of acai berries can affect your MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test. So if you are scheduled to undergo this exam, tell your doctor about your acai intake.
What Are the Uses of Acai Berry?
The natural colors of acai berry that come from the anthocyanins are known for stability, so acai has been used as natural food coloring.
Acai oil, which comes from the fruit, is rich in phenolic compounds. This oil is green, with a bland aroma and taste. It is high in palmitic and oleic fatty acids and may be used for cooking or salad dressing.
Livestock Food and Planting Soil
Acai seeds make up for about 80% of the fruit and may be used for livestock food and a component in organic soil for planting. The seeds are rich in saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Acai berry can be administered orally for use as a contrast agent for MRI of the gastrointestinal system.
In Brazil, seeds from acai palm have long been used traditionally for treatment of health problems, such as fevers.
Acai Berry Beauty Products
Acai is often used as an ingredient in shampoos, soaps, skin moisturizers, and other cosmetics. The oil is incorporated in cosmetics and beauty products because acai oil is rich in antioxidants. Acai oil may be a safe alternative to other types of tropical oils used in cosmetic products such as facial creams, body creams, anti-ageing skin therapy, shampoo, conditioners and other products, although more research is needed. Antioxidant levels remain high even when acai oil is stored long term.