Açaí is one of the most popular superfoods on Instagram today. But are you familiar with the health benefits of this exotic fruit? Did you know that it could boost your antioxidant intake? Açaí is a tropical Amazonian fruit that is rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments responsible for its purple color.
You can find powder and capsule supplements. They are used preventively to reduce oxidative damage and delay aging. In addition, açaí has energizing and cholesterol-lowering properties. Are you ready to learn everything there is to know about this potent fruit?
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The best Açaí in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Açaí
- 4.1 What are açaí berries exactly?
- 4.2 What is the nutritional profile of fresh and powdered açaí?
- 4.3 What are the health benefits of açaí?
- 4.4 What are the differences between açaí and blueberry?
- 4.5 Can açaí berries help with weight loss?
- 4.6 What are the side effects associated with açaí consumption?
- 4.7 Are there contraindications to using açaí?
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- This purple fruit from the Euterpe oleracea plant is rich in anthocyanins, carbohydrates, fiber, and unsaturated fats. It has antioxidant, energizing, hypocholesterolemic (glucose-lowering), and anti-aging properties.
- It can be challenging to find fresh açaí outside the countries where it grows naturally. This is why the berry is generally consumed as a supplement, either in powder or capsule form.
- You will have to evaluate different criteria to purchase a high-quality supplement. These include the Euterpe species and dosage form of the product, as well as the presence of added ingredients or allergens.
The best Açaí in the United Kingdom: Our Picks
Berries tend to decompose very quickly once harvested, so exporting them can be difficult. This is why most people consume açaí through supplements to improve their health or delay aging. In the section below, we have selected the best products currently available:
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Açaí
As we mentioned earlier, the consumption of fresh açaí is limited to the producer countries, which include Brazil, Peru, and Suriname. You can buy frozen pulp or consume these berries in the form of dietary supplements. In the section below, we will delve into the wonderful benefits of these fruits, as well as answer the most common questions regarding them.
What are açaí berries exactly?
This small, spherical berry has a diameter of 1 to 2 centimeters. The texture of its purple skin is smooth, while the pulp is juicy, sweet, and tasty. In fact, many people say that its taste is similar to that of a blend of chocolate and blackberry. Juices, jellies, powders, and capsules are made from the açaí berries (2).
What is the nutritional profile of fresh and powdered açaí?
|Average nutritional information||Fresh açaí pulp||Freeze-dried (dehydrated and powdered) açaí pulp|
|Calories (per 100 g)||80 calories||480 calories|
|Proteins (per 100 g)||2 g||8.3 g|
|Carbohydrates (per 100 g)||7 g||19 g|
|Fats (per 100 g)||6 g, of which 4.5 g correspond to healthy unsaturated fats (mainly omega 6 and 9)||38 g, of which at least 29 g correspond to healthy unsaturated fats (omega 6 and 9)|
|Dietary fiber||1 g||31 g|
Of the total fats present in açaí berry, half correspond to oleic acid (omega 9), which is also the primary fatty acid in olive oil. While anthocyanins don't provide calories, these pigments are responsible for the antioxidant activity of this fruit. In addition, açaí berries are rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium (3).
What are the health benefits of açaí?
- It has a powerful antioxidant effect. Anthocyanins can neutralize free radicals that oxidize cells, produce diseases (cardiac, neurological, cancer), and accelerate aging (4, 5).
- It provides energy. Both the fresh pulp and the powder supplement are highly concentrated in carbohydrates, which are the primary energy nutrients. The açaí berries can be taken as a snack before or after physical activity, or during breakfast to get the energy you need for the day ahead (3).
- It alleviates constipation. Fiber can represent up to 25% of the dry substance. This is why the pulp and powder stimulate bowel movements and help to treat constipation (1).
- It has cholesterol-lowering properties. The hypocholesterolemic capacity of açaí is attributed to the presence of omega-9 oleic acid, which decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood. Besides, dietary fiber and certain phytosterols present in the fruit also contribute to lowering cholesterol (6).
- It acts as a neuroprotector. The flavonoids in the açaí pulp aren't simply antioxidants; they also reduce the inflammation linked to metabolic disorders affecting the brain, such as atherosclerosis. Researchers are investigating the neuroprotective role of açaí against psychiatric diseases like bipolar disorder (7, 8).
- It helps delay skin and organ aging. The index that evaluates the capacity of a food to block the free radicals that make the organism sick and old is called ORAC (oxygen radical absorbing capacity). The açaí has an ORAC index of 18,400, which corroborates its incredibly antioxidant and anti-aging properties (9).
- It increases the satiety value. Its high fiber content makes the açaí berries remain for several hours in the stomach, extending the feeling of fullness and reducing the appetite. This is observed both when consumed fresh or in the form of powder (1).
- It improves cardiovascular health. Açaí supplements are antioxidants, lower cholesterol, strengthen blood vessels, and prevent blood clots from forming. All this contributes to your cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of developing heart conditions (10).
- It protects ocular health. Anthocyanins increase blood supply to the eyes and prevent retinal degeneration induced by oxidative stress and/or inflammation (10).
- It has antimicrobial properties. Anthocyanins inhibit the development of numerous pathogenic bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (a frequent cause of urinary infections), Listeria innocua, and Aeromonas hydrophilia (10, 11).
- It helps prevent or treat diabetes. The anthocyanin flavonoids improve insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetic nephropathy, which is one of the most frequent and severe complications of diabetes (10, 12).
What are the differences between açaí and blueberry?
|Scientific name||Euterpe oleracea||Vaccinium corymbosum|
|Type of plant||Palm trees. They grow in tropical and subtropical areas, mainly in the Amazon region.||Shrub. It develops better in cold regions. It is cultivated in North America, South America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.|
|Calories (per 100 g of powder supplement)||480 calories||330 calories|
|Fiber content (per 100 g of powder supplement)||30 g||14 g|
|Fat content (per 100 g of powder supplement)||35 g||2 g|
|Protein content (per 100 g of powder supplement)||8.5 g||1 g|
|Carbohydrate content (per 100 g of powdered supplement)||19 g||73 g|
While blueberry and açaí are both sources of anthocyanins, the second berries are richer in these pigments and have greater antioxidant properties. In addition, blueberries are low in fat and protein while having a higher carbohydrate concentration. Açaí, on the other hand, provides a considerable amount of unsaturated omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
Can açaí berries help with weight loss?
Anthocyanins help prevent metabolic complications related to obesity, such as type II diabetes, dyslipidemia (elevated blood cholesterol and/or triglycerides), fatty liver, and cardiovascular diseases. In that regard, açaí supplements may be beneficial for overweight or obese individuals (10).
What are the side effects associated with açaí consumption?
Are there contraindications to using açaí?
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childhood (especially in children under the age of eight).
- Surgical procedure in the near future. The berries inhibit the platelet aggregation your blood needs to coagulate.
- Hypoglycemic drug (metformin) or anticoagulant (warfarin) treatment.
- Iron-deficiency anemia. The manganese present in açaí can interfere with iron assimilation.
- Chronic heart, liver, kidney, or endocrine diseases. In that case, you must consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
- Nuclear magnetic resonance in the near future, as açaí can affect the contrast.
Now that you know the benefits of açaí, its nutritional profile, and the different forms available, you're almost ready to choose the right product. But there are so many supplements on the market that making a decision can seem daunting. To help you get it right, we have detailed the key shopping criteria in the final section of our article:
The açaí supplements you purchase should be sourced from the fruit of the palm Euterpe oleracea, which is the species of greatest nutritional and medicinal value. There are over 20 species of Euterpe in the Amazonian forest, but only two are commercially exploited to sell their fruits: Euterpe oleracea and Euterpe precatoria (1).
While the açaí berries of the plant Euterpe precatoria are equally or even more abundant in antioxidants than those of the Euterpe oleracea, we lack scientific research about the properties of this species. Since it is unknown whether or not its consumption is safe, you should steer clear of it (1).
As we have mentioned several times, açaí supplements come in the form of powder and capsules. The latter are a source of antioxidant flavonoids and phytosterols but don't contain any fiber, carbohydrate, or fat. This means that they are not recommended for relieving constipation, do not provide energy, and cannot help reducing appetite.
The advantage of the capsules is that they are easy to consume, have a neutral taste, and can be kept at room temperature. The powder, on the other hand, must be mixed with some liquid or creamy food before consumption. It has a sweet, sour, and pleasant taste. Commercial açaí juices are not recommended because they generally contain added sugar.
|Powdered açaí||Açaí capsules|
|Recommended daily dose||5 to 10 g (1 or 2 teaspoons)||1 to 3 capsules|
|Taste||Sweet, sour, pleasant||Soft, almost neutral|
|Indicated for|| - Constipation.
- As a snack before or after exercise.
- Large appetite.
- High blood cholesterol.
- Need to increase antioxidant intake.
- History of cardiovascular disease.
| - Need to increase antioxidant intake.
- Diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- History of cardiovascular disease.
- History of inherited diseases affecting eyesight.
Presence of Vitamin C
Most açaí capsules also contain added vitamin C. This is because this vitamin is very sensitive to temperature and oxygen, and the processing through which the fruits go tends to destroy it. If you opt for powder supplements, you should know that they rarely have added vitamin C. This is why you are advised to take it with some food source of the vitamin:
- Citrus fruits (orange, tangerine, lemon)
Presence of Allergens
The açaí berries are naturally gluten-free. However, anyone with celiac disease or intolerance to gluten must check the label to make sure that the supplement doesn't contain this allergen. Açaí is also free of lactose, but cross-contamination is a real risk. Read the list of ingredients carefully before making your purchase.
Other allergens that may contaminate these dietary products include egg, soy, and nuts. By law, the nutrition label must specify the allergens present in any food or supplement. If you suffer from a food allergy and you are unsure about a product, don't take a chance.
The açaí berry (Euterpe oleracea) is an exotic fruit native to the Amazon region, whose supplements are now consumed by people all over the world. The fascination for this berry is due to its excellent nutritional quality and high content in antioxidant anthocyanins. These flavonoids are also responsible for its very peculiar color.
Anthocyanins neutralize oxidative damage, protect cardiovascular health, inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, and prevent diabetes. Açaí also provides dietary fiber, which contributes to treating constipation, and monounsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol levels. Besides, this berry rarely causes side effects when consumed responsibly.
Did you enjoy our shopping guide on açaí? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below, and don't forget to share this article on your social media. That way, your friends and family can learn more about this exotic superfood!
(Featured Image Source: Acevedo: 107977378/ 123rf.com)
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Kang J et al. Bioactivities of açaí (Euterpe precatoria Mart.) fruit pulp, superior antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to Euterpe oleracea Mart.[Internet]. 2012.
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Oliveira de Souza M et al. The hypocholesterolemic activity of açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) is mediated by the enhanced expression of the ATP-binding cassette, subfamily G transporters 5 and 8 and low-density lipoprotein receptor genes in the rat [Internet]. 2012.
Kang et al. Flavonoids from acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities [Internet]. 2011.
Kolinski Machado A et al. Neuroprotective Effects of Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) against Rotenone In Vitro Exposure [Internet]. 2016.
Kolevski G, Ivic Kolevska S. Antioxidants in fruits and and human medical research: An overview [Internet]. 2012.
Khoo H, Azlan A, Tang S, Lim S. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits [Internet]. 2017.
Belda Galbis C et al. Antimicrobial activity of açaí against Listeria innocua [Internet]. 2015.
Belwal T, Nabavi SF, Nabavi SH, Habtemariam S. Dietary Anthocyanins and Insulin Resistance: When Food Becomes a Medicine [Internet]. 2017.
Silva S et al. Health promoting properties of blueberries: a review [Internet]. 2018.
da Silva V, de Almeida G, Barbosa F. Açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.): A Tropical Fruit with High Levels of Essential Minerals—Especially Manganese—and its Contribution as a Source of Natural Mineral Supplementation [Internet]. 2014.