Acai Berries are literally loaded with antioxidants; in particular they are especially rich in “anthocyanins”, flavonoids that give these berries their deep purple hue. Plants produce anthocyanins to protect their cells from ultra-violet radiation, disease and sun damage. These plant compounds are powerful free radical scavengers, fighting the oxidative damage that leads to disease and aging. Studies show that anthocyanins also protect the DNA, protein and lipids from aging. Anthocyanin rich foods, such as Acai Berries, can stop enzymes from destroying collagen, restoring youthful skin and a good collagen supply will also help to prevent age related eye disorders and osteoporosis.
Acai Berries also have an extremely high ORAC score (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), weighing in at 15,405 per 100g, whereas blueberries have a score of 4,669 for the same 100g.
The antioxidant activity of Acai Berries includes the protection of LDL against oxidation, which has been demonstrated in a number of studies. Oxidised LDL cholesterol can cause inflammation in the arteries, thus promoting atherosclerosis which in turn increases the chance of heart attack and stroke. The antioxidant compounds found in the Acai Berry can also protect the heart muscle and blood vessels from oxidative damage, lower blood pressure and increase blood flow, benefitting cardiovascular health.
Research suggests that a diet rich in antioxidants may lower the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Specifically, the anthocyanins that are abundant in Acai Berries have been shown to lower inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. It is thought that they help to inhibit neuro-inflammation, activate synaptic signalling and improve blood flow to the brain.
There are also ongoing preliminary research studies that indicate Acai improves short and long-term memory and promotes healthy aging of the brain.
The Acai Berry benefits to the digestive system are twofold; firstly they work as a natural cleanser for the intestines and colon, helping to relieve constipation and other digestive complaints. Secondly, they boost the metabolism to improve gut health, bowel emptying time, and intestinal bloating. The berries are also rich in prebiotics which are the healthy fibres that assist probiotics in digestion.
Studies show that consuming Acai Berries can boost the production of human gamma delta T cells in cell cultures, a type of immune cell that recognises and destroys foreign invaders. This subset of T cells plays an important role in mediating innate immunity against a wide variety of infections and displays potent and broad cytotoxic activity against human tumor cells. Acai has also been found to boost the production of interleukin 12 as well as myeloid cells, types of white blood cells that ensure your immune system remains in tip-top condition.
Lastly, but by no means least, Acai Berries are extremely nutrient dense. They are high in healthy monounsaturated fats including oleic acid, which helps the body use omega 3 to lower inflammation and make cell membranes. They are also high in the fat soluble, antioxidant vitamins A and E and a good source of minerals. To top it off they are fibre rich and whilst they don’t contain a huge amount of protein, they do contain 19 amino acids – giving Acai Berries the well earned title of “Superfood”.
Folklore and history
The most famous legend associated with the Acai Berry is that of Iaçá, the daughter of the Amazonian tribal leader Itaqui. The story goes that the tribe was facing famine due to a severe drought and Itaqui became worried about how to feed its people. The village elders decreed that all children born thereafter were to be sacrificed for the greater good of the tribe. After many moons had passed Iaçá, the chief’s own daughter, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.
The chief, Itaqui, a man of his word, did not hesitate to uphold his decree. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Iaçá implored her father to spare her son’s life arguing that the fields were already green and there was an abundance of wild game throughout the region. Nevertheless, the chief maintained his word and the child was sacrificed.
Iaçá, understandably overwhelmed with grief, pleaded with the gods for a way to show her father that such atrocities were not the proper solution for the tribe’s difficulties. She cried herself to sleep and in the small hours of the morning awoke to the cry of a child. She opened the door and to her surprise saw her son smiling at the foot of an elegant palm tree. Although in shock, she ran towards her son, but as she reached out her hands to embrace him, he disappeared and instead she found herself wrapping her arms around the tree. In her grief, Iaçá cried until she lost the will to live.
The following day, her body was found, still hugging the tree. She was dead, but her smiling face radiated satisfaction and her large dark eyes were fixed on the top of the palm tree. Itaqui noted that the palm had a bunch of dark purple berries where Iaçá's gaze was fixed. He ordered that the berries be gathered at once to be inspected. A deep, dark purple juice was extracted that was found to be a very nourishing food foe which Itaqui thanked the gods. Reversing the name of his daughter, Iaçá, he baptized this mysterious fruit Açaí.
The Acai tree is mainly indigenous to South and Central America, and is known to the natives as “the fruit that cries”. This moniker is attributed to either folklore, or to the fact that the fruit does indeed shed water in tear like drops. It is estimated that indigenous tribes use 2,000 to 3,000 known rainforest fruits medicinally – with Acai nearing the top of the list in its adaptability as a medicinal herb and a delectable food staple.
Immortalised in the hugely popular Brazilian breakfast dish, “Tigela de Acai”, the fruit grows prolifically along the shores of the river Amazon and has been a dietary staple of the local Ribeirinhos tribe for longer than recorded history. They have a belief that a meal is not complete without Acai, and a popular saying within this people is, “Without Acai, I’m still hungry”.
1 teaspoon of freeze dried Acai powder taken with liquid 1 - 3 times per day is a sufficient dose to effect one's health, when taken over a period of time.
A study on freeze-dried acai fruit identified 19 amino acids, making up 7.6% of its total weight. Oleic acid, 54%, palmitic acid, 27%, and linoleic acid, 12%, are the 3 dominant fatty acids. Nutrient analysis of 100 g of powder found 534 calories, 52 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 33 g total fat, and 44 g fiber. Vitamins A, B1, B2 and E are present, as well as calcium,potassium and iron. Five sterols have also been isolated. The major phytochemicals include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and other flavonoids, which are most likely associated with antioxidant activity. Cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside are the 2 predominant anthocyanins.