Heart disease, inflammation, and brain health are all areas of health where acai can benefit. Surprised by impressive macronutrient content. Acai berries have a unique high fat content - a very rare trait in any fruit. Not to mention moderate levels of protein, which is of course important for many metabolic functions.
What is acai berry powder?
Acai berry powder is a freeze-dried powder made from acai berry pulp. Acai berries (Euterpe oleracea) are native to Brazil and areas surrounding the Amazon forest. Acai berries are small, round, dark purple drupes. It is similar in shape and size to grapes. The berries are approximately 1 to 2 cm in diameter and the seeds make up the majority (80%) of the fruit.
The History of Acai Berry
Global demand for acai berries has exploded over the past 20 years. The acai tree is considered the most important plant in Brazil, as it accounts for approximately 42% of the total food intake of the local population by weight. Acai berries have been a staple of Amazonian cultures for centuries. The traditional Brazilian dish açai na tigela can be considered the original "acai bowl." It's often served as a smoothie, topped with bananas, strawberries, goji berries or granola. Depending on the region, tapioca pearls or tapioca flour are sometimes added.
Today, acai berry products are widely used in frozen desserts, smoothies, juices, as well as cosmetics and supplements. Trendy cafes and juice bars across Western culture, including Australia, will undoubtedly see a bowl or two of acai on their brunch menus.
Is acai berry powder good for you?
The short answer is yes. Acai berry powder is very healthy on its own, rich in antioxidants and has a range of health benefits. It's important to always be cautious about fad health foods. Those containing acai berries are no different. They sometimes contain other unhealthy ingredients.
Another thing to watch out for is the sweetener used in store-bought acai bowls. Pure acai powder is very bitter, unlike raw cocoa powder. So if the acai bowl you eat does taste like ice cream, make sure you don't add too much sweetener. Often, just a banana is all it takes to make it delicious. If you regularly enjoy these at your favorite market or cafe, double-check the added ingredients to make them palatable.
Organic and naturally sourced acai berry powder is the best choice as it comes from the country of origin, is free from contamination, and has maximum antioxidant content.
Acai berry powder nutrition facts
Berries or any fruit with such high protein and fat content are very rare. This is the unique and fascinating quality of the acai fruit. A balanced macronutrient diet (higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates) has multiple metabolic benefits. So making acai berries part of your favorite natural diet is one way to ensure you stay healthy.
100 g of freeze-dried acai berry powder contains:
- 52 grams of carbohydrates
- 8 grams of protein (solid!)
- 33 grams of fat (yes, thank you)
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
The polyphenol content of acai berry powder is comparable to black cherries and cranberries, and even higher than black tea. The various health benefits of polyphenols in fruits and vegetables have been well elucidated. Below is a list of polyphenols found in acai berries.
- ferulic acid
- gallic acid
- Ellagic acid
- vanillic acid
- Coumaric acid
Polyphenol Highlight – Anthocyanins
The rich purple color of acai berry powder is due to its high anthocyanin content. These are the same polyphenols found in blueberries. Anthocyanins are a subclass of flavonoids that give fruits and vegetables their red, purple, or vivid blue color. They are a very potent antioxidant and have a host of well-documented health benefits. In the body, anthocyanins have been shown to prevent cell damage, enhance antimicrobial activity, and improve brain health.
Anthocyanins appear to affect various inflammatory pathways in the body, including the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway and inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways. The COX pathway is the primary pathway responsible for pain in humans. This could be another potential use for anthocyanin-rich foods like acai berries in treating pain.
Summary of benefits of anthocyanins
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
- Prevent cancer cell proliferation
- active detoxifying enzyme
- Neuroprotection – protects brain cells from stress and damage
- Prevent environmental damage and pollution
Health Benefits of Acai Berry Powder
In 2021, a comparative study involving acai berry seed extract and blood pressure-lowering medications was conducted. Results showed that while both interventions lowered blood pressure, acai supplementation also had antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This has further beneficial effects on kidney and blood vessel cell function. This finding led the authors to conclude that acai berry is a valuable natural treatment for high blood pressure because it acts on multiple body systems simultaneously. In addition, acai berry extract can protect the heart and has a "cardiovascular remodeling" effect.
Cognition and Brain Health
A cell study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience found that acai berry extract has broad-spectrum anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Acai berry has been shown to reduce the production of reactive oxygen species, cell proliferation, and inflammatory cytokines in brain cells. The neuroprotective effects of acai berries may be due to a combination of polyphenols, anthocyanins, and high fat content. Incorporating acai berries into your daily diet may have beneficial therapeutic effects in the treatment and prevention of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
Another study showed that acai berry extract appears to target specific inflamed brain pathways. In general, acai berry is a possible therapeutic functional food for the prevention of neurological diseases and nerve inflammation.
Inflammatory diseases and kidney disease
Acai contains very high concentrations of anthocyanins. This subgroup of polyphenols is positively associated with reduced cancer, kidney disease, and inflammation. Acai berry has been shown to be a potentially effective intervention in the treatment of chronic kidney disease. This is primarily due to the alpha-tocopherol and flavonoid content in acai berries. These compounds exert potent anti-inflammatory effects and prevent DNA damage.
Acai berry extract prevents cancer
A systematic review of the anticancer effects of acai berry in animal models was conducted in 2018. The results clearly show that acai berry extract reduces cancer cell formation at all stages of the cell cycle. Acai berry reduced tumor cell proliferation, tumor size, and tumor incidence. This is primarily due to the anti-inflammatory properties of acai berries, which cause cancer cells to die. Acai berry extract is a very promising chemoprotective agent against cancer and should be considered as a beneficial intervention.
How to Store Acai Powder
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. If you live in a very hot climate, store it in the refrigerator.
How to Enjoy Acai Powder (This Is Not an Acai Bowl)
You can easily add acai powder where you would normally add cocoa. It has a naturally bitter taste due to its high polyphenol content, and has a bright purple color similar to blueberries. Just a tablespoon or two is enough to reap some major health benefits. Here are some ways to incorporate acai berry powder into your daily routine:
- Blend with banana, a little maple syrup, and your favorite nut milk for a quick smoothie
- Mix with 100% fruit juice for enhanced antioxidant effects
- Make chia seed pudding, stir in acai powder and store in the refrigerator
- Sprinkle chopped nuts and seeds over porridge
Recipe - Make Your Own Acai Bowl
How can I leave you hanging if you want to recreate your favorite cafe style acai bowl? Try this delicious recipe.
- 1-2 tablespoons acai powder
- 1 cup nut milk or milk of choice
- ¼ cup oats or chia seeds
- 1 banana
- ½ cup blueberries
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- Raw organic honey drizzle
- Combine acai powder, nut milk, oats or seeds and ½ banana in a blender. Blend until soft ice cream or thick smoothie forms.
- Transfer to a bowl, chop remaining bananas and place on top.
- Sprinkle with hemp and sunflower seeds and drizzle with honey.