Acai berries seem to be everywhere these days.
Ads claim they do everything from helping you lose weight to softening your hair and increasing your sex drive.
They’re used in plenty of food products and dietary supplements.
But is acai really a super-fruit?
Health magazine Senior Food & Nutrition Editor Frances Largeman-Roth gave “Early Show” viewers the lowdown, and shared some recipes using it.
Acai, she observed, is all over. It’s not only in food and health products, it’s also hit the beauty aisle (in conditioners) and perhaps even your local bar (in acai-blueberry vodka)!
Basically, the products claim to help increase sex drive, flatten your belly, cleanse your colon, soften your hair, etc. Those claims may or may not be true.
But what’s undeniable is that acai is a fabulous source of antioxidants. The trick is adding it into your diet in a way that doesn’t also contribute tons of extra calories.
Acai is a small, round, black-purple berry about an inch wide. It’s from Central and South America and is mainly grown in Brazil. It comes from the wild palm berry, and only two crops of the fruit are produced each year. It has a single, large seed. The outer-layer of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the type of açaí and its maturity.
Although açaí is touted in some weight loss products, few studies have tested its benefits, if any, in promoting weight loss.
This fruit has always been consumed in Brazil. People there believe acai has health benefits — in particular, that it gives them energy (energy that could help lead to reducing appetites and perhaps increasing sex drives.) But that might be because acai is traditionally mixed with guarana (a natural caffeine source). That’s probably why they associate it with instant energy.
For now, plenty of research supports eating a diet rich in antioxidants. There’s no doubt that berries and other fruits are a key part of any healthy diet promoting weight loss. The jury’s still out on whether there is something special about acai’s ability to shed excess pounds.
Some studies show that açaí fruit pulp has a very high antioxidant capacity with even more
antioxidant content than the cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry. Acai is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. Because of its extensive vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other properties, açaí is said to be one of one the most nutritionally-dense berries on the planet.
Acai also fights free radical damage (which is what makes us age.) Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals.
By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Acai has a very rich, very intense. It’s sort of a mix between blueberry and dark chocolate.
It’s very perishable. Once ripened on the tree, it’s harvested and processed. The closest experience to eating it fresh is tasting frozen acai pulp. Look for it at natural food stores. It comes in little packets.
You can also find a freeze-dried version in powder. It’s available at your local health food store.
Products (food, beverages and cosmetics) made with açaí can be pricey; so don’t feel like you have to load your cart with EVERYTHING açaí! A better bet: Sample it, taste it, and make sure it works with your skin regimen, then add the pulp, powder, and juice into a healthy, balanced diet or beauty routine.
But beware: Just because it has acai, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Cereal, maybe protein bars, and store-bought smoothies can be really high in sugar and calories. And don’t throw out the blueberry and pomegranates!
You can use acai powder in anything from muffins to waffles to smoothies. The juice can be whisked into salad dressing.
Sunrise Smoothie Parfait
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries, preferably wild
2 tablespoons frozen açaí pulp
1/2 tablespoon light agave nectar
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup cubed peeled ripe mango
1/4 cup ice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened pineapple cubes (such as Dole)
1/4 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons flaked unsweetened coconut
1. Purée first 4 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass.
2. Rinse blender, and purée mango with ice, lime juice, and wheat germ until smooth. Spoon over the blueberry mixture.
3. Rinse blender again; purée pineapple with remaining ingredients until smooth. Spoon into glass over mango mixture; serve.
Oatmeal Pancakes with Wild Blueberry Sauce
Makes about 12 pancakes
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup 1% low-fat buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons açaí powder
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 cups frozen wild blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Soak oats in buttermilk in a small bowl for 15 minutes.
2. Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and açaí powder in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk eggs together with egg whites in a small bowl, and stir in milk.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir.
5. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray.
6. Pour about 1/2 cup batter per pancake onto hot skillet, and cook 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.
7. Flip and cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.
8. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.
9. Cook remaining batter in batches.
10. Meanwhile, combine blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until berries pop. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Spoon blueberry sauce over pancakes; serve.
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons acai juice (or juice blend)
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey (I have some in the office)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil (can increase if needed)
1. Whisk together in a bowl. Drizzle over fresh spinach or your choice of mixed greens. From cbsnews.