The açai berry has had a bit of a bad press in recent years, after erroneously being linked to Oprah Winfrey’s weight loss, the health properties of this berry have been forgotten. However, it is a very nutritional fruit and is rich in proteins, fibre, vitamin E, minerals, essential omega oils 6 and 9, and is low in sugars. The Açai berry (pronounced Ah Sah Hee) is a small round berry, slightly larger than a blueberry and a dark purple-black colour. It consists of a large seed covered by a very thin layer of flesh and skin. In fact, the flesh and skin make up less than 10% of its total weight which makes it almost impossible to eat raw and typically it is made into a pulp. The açai berry is native to Central and Southern America and harvested by the indigenous people of Brazil. Açai grows in several different places in Brazil including the Acre, Para and Amapa regions. Most of the açai grows wild in the Amazon Rainforest on high branches of tall palm trees. These trees can be up to 15-20metres tall and with each branch loaded with several hundred açai berries.
Scientists have concluded that foods high in anthocyanins have a natural healing power to work against cancer, diabetes, blood clots, inflammation, neurological diseases and the ageing process. Research has shown than anthocyanins also have powerful antiviral and anti-allergenic properties. Anthocyanins are the pigments found in plants that give them the great display of shades of red, blue, black and purple. Foods high in anthocyanins include blueberries, black-currants, egg plant, oranges, red cabbage, raspberries, cherries and red wine. Each containing different levels. Açai has thirty times more anthocyanins than as red wine each with their own antioxidant properties. Açai is the most efficient way to ingest rich levels of anthocyanins. The pulp in açai berries contains a remarkable concentration of antioxidants – more so than even its counter part, the red grape. Antioxidants have a major significance to our overall health in fighting free radicals. It’s also packed with healthy fats, fibre, plant sterols, minerals and amino acids. The fatty acid present is Oleic acid, known to work with Omega-3 to help nourish and regenerate cells.
The bad part about açai is it deteriorates very quickly after being harvested. Outside Brazil, it’s really only available as a juice, fruit pulp or freeze dried. You can however, find açai berries marketed in juices, candy bars, cereals and lots of processed juices.