Ten years ago in Calgary, Canada, most people had never heard of acai, let alone an acai bowl. It has become extremely popular in the last few years because most people believe it’s good for you. The acai berry comes from Brazil and has been used by the indigenous people of the Amazon Rain Forest for centuries as food. The bowls are actually more like an acai smoothie in a bowl and often topped with other healthy fruit and nuts.
Benefits of the acai berry.
The berry looks much like a grape and has large seeds with edible flesh and skin. It’s filled with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fat and calcium. While it looks like a blueberry or grape, it tastes quite different. Some people love the slightly bitter, almost chocolaty flavor of the berry, but most people find it too tart. The texture is grainy. Those problems are solved when it’s put in a blender and mixed with honey or other sweeter fruits.
The acai berry has many nutrients.
This potent little berry is high in polyphenols and antioxidants to protect the cells and boost the immune system. It is also high in fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Like avocados and nuts, it has omega-3 fatty acids, a heart healthy fat. It is healthy when combined with other fruits and vegetables. It may help prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis—due to the high amount of anthocyanins, and in addition to regulating blood sugar and slowing the aging process. The high fiber content may help improve cholesterol levels.
There are a few drawbacks.
Acai hasn’t been studied for long, so there isn’t as much research into the fruit. Because it’s high in antioxidants, it may decrease the benefits from chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer. If you’re allergic to any food from palm trees, such as coconut or dates, acai may also trigger similar reactions. Some of the phytochemicals in acai are stimulants, such as theobromine, which acts similar to caffeine when consumed. If you don’t have side effects from caffeine, such as muscle tremors, headaches, rapid heartbeat or insomnia, you still may not be out of the woods. While some studies show eating acai berries for a period as short as a week may dramatically lower blood pressure, since it’s a vasodilator, a hypothesis also exists that taking the acai powder may cause blood pressure to rise over a longer period or cause intestinal bleeding and ulcers.
- The berries go bad, even when refrigerated, within 4-5 days, sooner if washed before refrigeration. Powder can last up to two years when frozen. The puree has an expiration date you can use as a guide.
- Eating an acai bowl with a variety of other fruits and nuts may boost your hair growth and make you look years younger. It’s the combination of fruits and varied nutrients you consume.
- Acai may interact with medications. That includes OTC meds like ibuprofen. Always talk to your health care professional first if you’re on cancer medication or taking an antioxidant supplement.
- If you’re pregnant, nursing or considering giving an acai supplement—not the fresh berry—to a child, always error on the side of caution. Don’t do it. There’s not nearly enough information on the safety for these groups of the population.
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