HEALTH BENEFITS OF ACAI BERRIES
These small, deeply purple-colored berries are native to Central and South America, especially Brazil where they grow in parts of the Amazonian rain forest. Acai berries have sustained traditional Brazilian and Amazonian populations, including the Caboclo tribe, with nutrients and calories for hundreds of years.
In fact some records show that Caboclo people ate enough acai berries during certain parts of the year to make up more than 40 percent of the total calories they consumed! Supposedly they were able to hunt and gather food for many hours without becoming hungry, tired or weak, which many have attributed to all thand fiber they were obtaining from eating so many acai berries.
But acai berry has more to offer than just antioxidants — it also supplies many other electrolytes, trace minerals, amino acids and even small amounts of essential fatty acids. While there’s some talk about acai berries helping to prevent cancer, not much research has been done to show this is a proven benefit in humans just yet. However, we would expect the consumption of acai berry to help fight cancer just like other berries do (such as blackberries or cherries) since they target the underlying cause of cancer formation, aka high levels of free radical damage and inflammation.
Acai comes loaded with numerous nutrients including:
- Antioxidants (anthocyanins, polyphenols, vitamins A, C and E)
- Healthy Fats including monounsaturated fats and omega fatty acids (including omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 and fatty acids like linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid)
- Dietary fiber
- Certain essential amino acids
- Electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and manganese)
- Plant sterols (B-sitosterol, campesterol and sigmasterol)
- Other trace minerals (iron, calcium, copper and zinc)
- B vitamins (B1, B2 and B3)
6 Acai Berry Benefits
By Dr. Axe www.draxe.com
1. Very High in Antioxidants
No doubt about it, there’s quite a long list of health benefits that are attributed to acai berries. Most of the benefits you’ll get from eating acai berry is due to its extremely high antioxidant content, which is why it’s said to have a high “ORAC score.”
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity; it’s a scale that measures the antioxidant properties of foods. ORAC values are used to classify foods by how many antioxidants they contain based on weight, and acai berry is very close to the top of the list.
Purple acai berries actually get their distinct color due to high concentrations of certain pigmented nutrients they contain, especially anthocyanins, which are found in many reddish-purple berry species. The concentration of antioxidants in acai is believed to be 10 times higher those in red grapes, and acai is estimated to have 10 to 30 times the amount of anthocyanins than red wine.
Antioxidants including anthocyanins contribute immensely to the anti-inflammatory, anti-aging benefits of acai berries. That’s because antioxidants are “free radical scavengers,” which means they help slow the process of free radical damage (also called oxidative stress) that causes the body to deteriorate and develop ailments over time. Acai seems to be especially effective at superoxide and peroxyl scavenging; in fact, it’s been shown to have the highest score of any food reported to date against the peroxyl radical as measured by oxygen radical absorbance tests.
Free radicals are responsible for the “wear and tear” we attribute to aging, and they enter the body through things like a poor diet, chemical contaminants, environmental pollution and high amounts of UV light exposure. Not only does free radical damage make us look older faster by damaging our skin, but it also contributes to joint, skeletal and muscular pains.
By helping the body remain more resilient to the effects of free radicals, acai is beneficial for nearly every bodily system: cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, neurological, immune, etc. And when it comes to acai’s anti-aging effects, good things come in small packages: Studies show antioxidants in acai are able to enter human cells in a fully functional form and to perform oxygen quenching functions even at very low doses.
2. Boosts Skin Health
Acai berry is useful for preventing early signs of aging and helping with skin regeneration. For millenia people have used antioxidant-rich foods and herbal treatments, including acai, both topically and internally to prevent skin degradation and keep skin resilient and healthy looking.
In people who develop high levels of oxidative stress, their skin is often one of the first things to show this. Dark spots, wrinkles, fine lines, sagginess and discoloration are all tied to free radical damage within the skin. Many people also use acai berry to get rid of scars, stretch marks, crow’s feet and dry skin. Consuming plenty of antioxidants helps the body repair damaged skin cells faster and, therefore, a more youthful appearance is maintained.
3. Helps With Cognitive Functioning
Eating plenty of foods with antioxidants is a natural way to improve your focus and memory. Inflammation and oxidative stress are two major underlying causes of cognitive problems, including loss of memory, dementia and other age-related mental disorders. Through a process of suppressing biological activity that degrades cellular integrity, acai pulp fractions seem to have protective effects over brain cells, which could have implications for improved cognitive and motor functions
Studies have found that fractions extracted from acai contain brain-saving nutrients, including anthocyanins such as cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin and peonidin, along with phenolics such as catechin, ferulic acid, quercetin, resveratrol, and synergic and vanillic acids.
Because it turns off inflammatory pathways that damage nerve signals in the brain, acai berries are believed to help stimulate mental functions and help someone think more clearly, maintain high energy levels and deal with various effects of psychological stress better. Acai is protective against the damaging effects of stress, including disrupting hormonal balance and raising cortisol levels, which is why some consider acai berry to be an “adaptogen.”
4. Might Help Control Your Appetite & Boost Weight Loss
Some experts believe that acai berry has certain appetite-suppressing abilities thanks to how it effects various hormones that control blood sugar levels and feelings of hunger, fullness and satiety. It seems to help improve metabolic functions which helps the body work better absorbing nutrients, breaking down foods, eliminating waste and regulating the release of insulin.
Some research shows that that by helping boost proper digestion and controlling the amount of insulin in the blood, acai is beneficial for curbing cravings and might be helpful in a healthy weight loss plan. It’s possible that acai facilitates with the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates and also helps lower the desire to overeat, which is a direct way to help stay at a healthy body weight.
5. Stimulates Healthy Digestion
Acai berry has a good dose of fiber to offer, but it seems to improve digestion in other ways beyond how most high-fiber foods do. Acai berry is considered a natural digestive cleanser, helping the liver and kidneys to process and remove waste and toxins from the body.
On top of its ability to work as a kidney and liver cleanser, it’s also a natural colon cleanser, which means it prevents the accumulation of harmful substances and undigested matter from staying lodged in the colon where they can cause constipation and other digestive problems. By improving the metabolism in general, acai berries are capable of speeding up bowel transit time, preventing foods from fermenting in the intestines and causing bloating, gas and constipation.
6. Offers Protection Aginst Heart Disease & Diabetes
Although it’s known best for its antioxidants, acai is also considered an anti-inflammatory food because it contains some monounsaturated fatty acids, in addition to dietary fiber and phytosterols that all help promote cardiovascular health. Studies show that regularly drinking acai juice has positive effects on blood lipid levels and can protect the heart. Consumption of acai berry helps lower inflammation too, which is one of the root causes of coronary heart disease and hormone-related problems, including type 2 diabetes.
Acai is surprisingly rich in monounsaturated fas like oleic acid, which is found in heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil and helps the body use omega-3 fish oils to lower inflammation and make cell membranes.
A small 2011 study done by the Mediscus Research Center in California investigated the effects of acai on metabolic syndrome, a term used to describe a condition that is defined by various risk factors for cardiovascular disease and/or type 2 diabetes. The study looked at changes in reactive oxygen species and metabolic pathways in a small group of overweight adults after taking 100 grams of acai twice daily for one month.
After measuring fasting plasma glucose, insulin, cholesterol, triglycerides, exhaled (breath) nitric oxide metabolites (eNO) and plasma levels before and after the study, subjects on average experienced improvements in fasting glucose and insulin levels, a reduction in total choleseertol and borderline significant reduction in LDL-cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that acai might help overweight adults lower their odds of experinecing heart disease and diabetes, although more studies on a larger scale are still needed.