Acai berries have enjoyed plenty of positive publicity lately due to their alleged health benefits and the potential weight loss effects of the acai berry cleanse. Can this Amazonian berry really help you achieve a healthier, leaner body?
What Is Acai?
The acai berry grows on the acai palm tree, native to the Amazon rainforest. A small, dark purple berry, it comes from the same family as blueberries and cranberries.
Unlike most other berries, however, the acai fruit consists of mostly seeds with only 15% of the fruit’s outer layer being edible.
An Ancient Food
Acai has been used for thousands of years as an essential food staple. In fact, a study of several Amazonian tribes found that the berry made up over 40% of their total food intake, and was an important part of their diet.
Health Benefits Of Acai Berries
Everyone knows the benefits of eating a rainbow of natural foods every day – all those different colors represent the various nutrients your body needs for optimum health. Acai’s purple color is due to a high concentration of anthocyanin, a pigment derived from the antioxidant flavonoids contained within the berry.
A food’s antioxidant strength is measured by its Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity (ORAC). Acai berries have the highest ORAC value known, at an impressive 102,700. This puts other antioxidant-high foods such as blueberries (ORAC value 4,669), raspberries (ORAC value of 5,065) and red wine (ORAC value of 4,523) to shame!
Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals that damage the cells and contribute to aging. Consuming flavonoids in particular has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illness such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Antioxidants are also essential for a strong immune system.
Acai berries also contain good amounts of other health boosting nutrients:
- Vitamin A, also an antioxidant, is essential for maintaining clear eyesight, beautiful skin, and strong bones.
- Iron helps transport oxygen to the cells and plays an important role in your body’s energy production.
- Calcium is important for your heart’s health, and helps maintain strong teeth and bones. It also relieves aching muscles, making acai berries a perfect post workout snack.
- Oleic acid is an essential fatty acid that has been proven to reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, thereby lowering your risk of cardio vascular disease.
Acai And Weight Loss
Acai berries contain plenty of fiber, which can help you lose weight long term. Fiber slows down your digestion, which means you’ll absorb energy from food more slowly and your blood sugar levels will be more stable.
How To Take Acai
There are many acai products on the market; do you know which one is best for you?
Unfortunately, fresh acai berries are rarely found for sale outside of the area where they are grown. Their high fatty acid content makes them prone to turning rancid very quickly, so they can’t be shipped all over the world in the same way as other fruits.
Teas And Juices
There are plenty of health drinks and herbal teas containing acai berries. However, beware that not all of these are actually healthy – many drinks in particular contain a lot of sugar, thereby cancelling any health benefit. Check the label to see how much acai is really in the product. The most prevalent ingredient is mentioned first, so make sure acai berry is at the top of the list.
The Acai Berry Cleanse / Acai Berry Detox
Since 2004 the alternative health industry has flooded the market with various acai products due to the berry’s increased popularity. The Acai Berry Cleanse or Detox involves taking acai capsules according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, over a period of several days. It’s alleged the acai cleanse rids the body of unwanted toxins that have accumulated in the bowel, resulting in fat loss and a lower weight, though these results have so far not been scientifically verified.
Unlike the acai berry cleanse products, acai supplements usually only contain 100% pure acai berry or acai berry extract, with no laxatives or bulking agents. Where possible try to pick organic supplements, as these won’t have been contaminated by pesticides or insecticides.
Risks And Side Effects
Acai cleanse products usually contain natural laxatives such as senna leaves. These can irritate the bowel, especially if you have a sensitive digestive system.
Stimulants like caffeine are also sometimes added to increase the pills’ weight loss action. Always check the label and choose products with the purest and most natural ingredients.
No recommended daily allowance has been set for acai berries, and dosage recommendations vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Acai is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. It’s important that you seek a doctor’s advice prior to taking any supplement or starting a cleanse or detox program.
Acai – Weight Loss Miracle Or Not?
There’s no doubt that taking acai berry supplements will increase your antioxidant intake and therefore improve your overall health.
These are not magic pills, but taken in conjunction with a healthy diet, high in fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, they will help you to reach your weight loss goals, and gain better overall health.
 Murrieta RSS, Dufour DL, Siqueira AD (1999). "Food consumption and subsistence in three Caboclo populations on Marajo Island, Amazonia, Brazil". Human Ecology 27: 455–75