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Is the Acai Berry a Superfood?

By Revital Aranbaev

The acai berry has gained massive popularity in recent years and is most commonly known for its weight loss and anti-aging properties. This magical berry is also said to be helpful for a variety of serious health concerns including cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. It has been also referred to as the “Amazon’s Viagra” and the “Beauty Berry.”

The acai berry is grape-like, red to purple in color and usually described as tasting like a combination between red wine and chocolate. Acai berries come from the acai palm tree, which is native to Central and South America. 

Some say that the acai berry has been cherished by the native people of the Amazon for hundreds of years as a healing fruit. Currently Brazilians eat it because of its taste and nutritional value.

Since Acai became so widely talked about in such a short amount of time, and it claims such a large array of health benefits, it can make you a little skeptical.

Prior to 2001, this little berry was basically unheard of in the U.S. In 2005 sales of acai products were approximately $435,000 and two years later rose to 13.5 million! Today large companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Haagen-Dazs have all added acai into their products.

 

What makes the acai berry stand out? Why has it created such a craze in a short period of time?

The most widespread notion is that it's filled with powerful antioxidants that accompany it in healing ailments.

As a general rule, antioxidants strengthen your cells. They defend your body against free radicals, which can be caused by anything from pesticides to cigarette smoke. Free radicals are associated with a long list of diseases including cancer and arthritis.

Acai berries contain specific antioxidants that help defend your body against life's stressors. They play an active role in your body's cell protection system.

There is no debate over whether or not you need to eat a diet full of antioxidants. Everyone agrees that antioxidants are something that your body benefits from. The real question is whether acai berry is the best source of antioxidants in comparison to other foods.

According to well known physician, Dr. Perricone, the acai berry is the #1 superfood, specifically because of its anti-aging properties.  [i]   He says that acai has 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10-30 times the anthocyanins (antioxidant flavonoids) of red wine.

 

A study in 2006 discovered that acai berries caused human cancer cells to self destruct 86% of the time in a culture.[ii] Assistant professor, Stephen Talcott adds that other fruits including grapes, guavas and mangoes contain antioxidants and have shown to kill cancer cells in similar studies.

In a study two years later, the acai berry proved its ability to be absorbed in the human body when consumed both as juice and pulp.[iii] Because of its numerous antioxidants, the berry’s absorption in humans was an important find.

 

Acai’s ORAC level (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is over 3,500, which is hundreds of times higher than common fruits like apples and bananas.[iv]

Some refer to the acai berry as the “Beauty Berry”. That's due to its combination of antioxidants, amino acids and omega fatty acids, all of which boost your immune system, remove free radicals from your body, and thereby slow the aging process. That's why acai oil is added to some cosmetics and beauty products.

 

Unfortunately the current market for acai has negatively affected the harvesting process.

Harvesting using naturally growing palms in the jungle can no longer meet the current needs of the market. This is resulting in widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers.[v] In addition the native people of Brazil are now losing out on a food source they have depended on for numerous years.

2 Comment(s)

  1. I "discovered" acai when I visited Brazil in 1984. I ate it all over the northeast of the country, but nowhere else. Unless sustainably harvested, I have no interest in it, super ORAC numbers or not. I do buy raw, frozen acai from Rainforesta occasionally; it's organic and sustainably harvested. I love it, but I don't want Brazilians to lose out.

    Zyxomma | May 2, 2012 | Reply

  2. Many of the antioxydants found in Acai berries are also found in wild plants and cultivated crops which are more readily available and at a much lower price, as well as the lower cost to the environment. Most, if not all black-skinned fruit contains high levels of the antioxydant anthocyanin, including blackberries,  blueberries and elder berries. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory Resveratrol, which is the substance found in red wine/grapes wich supposedly protects from heart disease and cancer,  is present in Japanese Knotweed. However, caution is advised as this plant also contains oxalic acid and is often sprayed with powerful herbicides to which it can be resistant and may not show signs of spraying.
    All this, of course, presumes that antioxidants have a benificial effect in vivo. What is certain is that eating good, fresh fruit and veg is benificial in many other ways, and some of the healthiest food is found in the wild, free and with no packaging and few, if any, food miles.

    judyofthewoods | May 3, 2012 | Reply

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