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Acai Berry: The Healthy Benefits of this Superfood

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We’ve all witnessed how a new “superfood” will burst onto the scene, get everyone talking and then slowly fade away as people begin to realize that the hype was based on over-exaggerated claims rather than hard facts. This understandably makes many of us a little leery whenever we hear the word “superfood,” but sometimes a food will come along that actually deserves the title– like the amazing little acai berry.

While there is a lot to love about acai, one of the first questions many people ask is about how to pronounce acai: proper acai pronunciation sounds like “AH-sigh-EE”. (x)

Acai berry’s main claim to superfood fame is that it’s incredibly high in antioxidants. In fact, acai berries make it onto the list of the top 25 most antioxidant-rich foods. (x) Antioxidants are substances that counteract and neutralize free radicals,  molecules your body produces when exposed to toxins and external pollutants from a number of sources, including UV rays, processed foods and toxic fumes – in other words, things we encounter every day.  Free radicals are thought to lead to serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and cancer. (x)

Step one in reducing the impact of free radicals is by limiting your exposure to agents known to encourage their formation as much as possible. Step two is doing everything you can to support your own health. This includes taking care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, participating in regular exercise, taking care of your mental health and possibly following a detox regimen to eliminate toxins and reduce oxidative stress.

Acai berry can be a wonderful component of your healthy lifestyle. Here’s what you need to know about acai berry, its benefits, and how it can complement your healthy lifestyle.

Acai Berry Benefits

Antioxidant Powerhouse

Among the acai berry’s many claims to fame, one of the most well-known is its status as an antioxidant powerhouse. Our bodies depend on antioxidants to fight the effects of an overabundance of free radicals,  which our bodies produce from both normal cell metabolism and exposure to environmental and external elements. This is a normal physiological process, but when too many free radicals form, it makes it more difficult for the body to destroy them on its own. This leads to oxidative stress, which is believed to be the trigger behind many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease and cancer. (x)

Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals and mitigate their potential to cause damage. Foods like acai berry that are rich in antioxidants are important components of a healthy diet.

The antioxidant capacity of foods is rated using an analysis called ORAC, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. (x)The higher the rating, the stronger the antioxidant power of a food, meaning foods that rate high on the scale increase the antioxidant power of the body’s blood supply by 10-25%. (x) Acai berry, and supplement products made from them, rate in the top 25 antioxidant foods with a whopping ORAC value of 102,700. (x) For comparison, blueberries – which are also rich in powerful antioxidants – have an ORAC value of 4,669. (x)

Cardiovascular Health

Like other types of berries that are high in polyphenols, acai berries have been shown to improve cardiovascular health. (x) In one study, animals that were fed a diet supplemented with acai experienced hypocholesterolemic effects, meaning that their total LDL cholesterol was reduced. (x)

While more research is needed, scientists believe thatanthocyanins – which give acai berries their rich, purple pigment – are at least partly responsible for the protective cardiovascular benefits. When compared to red wine, which is heart-healthy in moderation, acai berry contains more than 10 times the concentration of antioxidants. (x)

Cancer-Fighting Potential

One of the benefits of antioxidant-rich nutrition is its cancer fighting potential. While any food or supplement that contains antioxidants theoretically has the potential to ward off the cellular changes that lead to cancer, some sources of antioxidants have proven to be more effective than others. Acai berry is one of them.

While research is a little sparse for some of the reported benefits of acai, cancer protection is one area that has received ample attention from the scientific community. For instance, one study demonstrated the potential of acai in inhibiting DMBA – a common breast cancer initiator used in laboratory research. (x) Additional studies have connected acai pulp and acai seed extract to a reduction in tumor activity in lung cancer and colon cancer. (x) (x)

Metabolic Health

Perhaps one of the most controversial benefits of acai berry is its effects on weight loss, weight maintenance, and overall metabolic health.  Some claims assert that acai berry can be used to accelerate weight loss–however the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health maintains that there is a lack of peer-reviewed, published, independent studies to substantiate this claim. (x)

Still, even though research is limited, there are promising studies suggesting acai may have a positive impact on metabolic health.

One study in particular noted that overweight participants who consumed acai pulp showed reduced levels of markers for metabolic disease – a condition that can serve as a precursor for obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (x)

Acai berries might not be a magical elixir for rapid weight loss and further studies are needed, but there is enough evidence to support the theory that acai can play an important role in weight management as part of a healthy diet.

Glowing Complexion

Just like the rest of your body, your skin undergoes changes as you mature. Acai has been promoted as an anti-aging miracle, but instead of dismissing this as hype, let’s take a look at the ways that acai berry can promote skin health and slow down the signs of aging.

First, as already mentioned, acai is an antioxidant powerhouse. Every day, your skin comes in contact with environmental toxins, pollutants and UV exposure that lead to oxidative stress. Over time, this oxidative stress can cause premature aging and, in some cases, even cancer such as melanoma. (x) A diet rich in antioxidants  like acai berry  can help to repair or mitigate the damage caused by oxidative stress.

Acai is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and other nutrients that support collagen formation and overall skin health. (x) (x)

Acai Berry Benefits

Did You Know?

  • Acai berries aren’t actually berries at all. The acai fruit contains a pit, similar to that of an olive or apricot, meaning that they are technically a drupe rather than a berry. However, their outward appearance is that of a typical berry.
  • Acai has a unique nutritional compilation, especially compared to other fruits and berries. It’s a source of healthy fats, fiber, and important vitamins and trace minerals, while containing practically zero sugars. (x)
  • Acai berries have been used in holistic medicine for thousands of years by tribes in the Amazon.It was only once we discovered the berries’ antioxidant capacity that they became a “trendy” fruit in the western world. (x)
  • The medical industry has shown interest in the dark-colored fruit as an alternative imaging contrast solution for use in MRIs. (x)
  • Acai has gained so much attention as a superfood that an internet search for the popular “acai bowl” generates nearly 14 million results. (x) (Many of these entries are recipes for acai bowls you can make yourself with acai berry powder.)
  • An acai berry cleanse has become a popular way of detoxing the body and kick-starting weight loss. To get the most out of an acai cleanse, it’s important to choose a quality acai powder and to avoid supplements that contain nothing more than fillers with only a small amount of actual acai powder or extract.

Acai Berry Side Effects and Dosage

While acai berry powder is a supplement, acai berries themselves are food that is safe for consumption in people without known allergies or sensitivities. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not have any formal dosage guidelines for acai powder.

For consumers who are interested in acai supplements, there are numerous forms available. These include powder, juices, acai berry extract and acai berry tea. The appropriate dosage will depend upon a number of factors, including the form used and your general health. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, even one like acai berry. If you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications, your doctor can help you determine an appropriate dosage for your individual needs.

It is advised that you follow the dosing instructions that are included in the package material of acai supplements. Typical dosage can range from 1,000 mg – 4,000 mg daily, and it is generally recommended that you take acai supplements with food to reduce the likelihood of digestive upset. (x)

Side Effects

Acai berry is widely consumed in both its whole fruit form and as juice with no known side effects, although there is limited scientific research on the safety of acai berry supplements. (x) If you have never used an acai berry powder, it is best to start with a lower dose and then increase it once you’ve assessed your tolerance level.

Even though acai is considered to be generally safe, it’s still possible to experience acai berry side effects – especially if the supplement is overused or otherwise abused. Some people may experience stomach upset, but no data on adverse reactions or drug interactions is available. (x)

The Bottom Line

Acai berry is a powerful antioxidant with promising research to support its role in a healthy lifestyle. Whether you want to be the healthiest version of yourself or you want to protect yourself from heart disease, obesity and other chronic health issues, acai berry can be an important component of your healthy diet and lifestyle. Plus, if you’ve ever tried an acai bowl or smoothie, you know this powerful little fruit is as delicious as it is healthy. Try acai and say hello to your new favorite superfood!

**The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. Supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases- instead, they help maintain your long term health.

About the author

Casey Eade

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