Technically, acais are a type of drupe, a fruit consisting of an outer fleshy part and a hard stone inside. In this way, they’re more similar to apricots or olives than they are to other berries. But the acai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is still considered a berry of sorts, and it packs some serious health benefits that go beyond being an Instagram-worthy addition to smoothies.
Native to South America, and found mainly in the Amazon rainforest, these small, dark purple berries are commonly used to make all sorts of drinks and dishes. Their popularity isn’t unearned, though; acai berries are packed with antioxidants and other good-for-you nutrients that can help boost your body’s natural defenses against disease.
Read on to learn about the amazing health benefits of acai and why you should consider adding this delicious berry to your diet.
1. Chock-Full of Nutrients
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists the nutritional content of 10-grams of acai berry powder as follows (3):
- 70 calories
- 1 g protein
- 5 g total fat
- 4 g carbohydrate
- 3 g fiber
- 20 milligrams (mg) calcium
Looking at this list, you can see that in just a small amount of the powder, you get some minerals such as calcium. But even more importantly, acai contains:
- Fatty acids – especially oleic, palmitic and linoleic acid. These are essential fatty acids, meaning your body needs them but can’t produce them on its own (22).
- Phenolic acids – including ferulic, coumaric and caffeoyl. These are similar to the antioxidants found in green tea and red wine, they protect your cells from damage and help keep you healthy (24).
- 19 amino acids – including all of the essential ones, which your body needs to build proteins that power many biological processes (22).
- Several sterols – including beta-sitosterol, campesterol and stigmasterol (22). These help to reduce cholesterol levels in the body (23).
Read More: Healthy Blueberry Muffins With Oats 3 Ways
2. Lower The Risk of Cognitive Decline
As we age, something tends to happen in our brains. The neurons start to deteriorate and our cognitive functions, such as memory, start to decline.
After a certain age, it might be inevitable that our brain will weaken, but studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as those found in acai berries, can help to slow the process of cognitive decline (19).
Acai berries contain antioxidants (anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and flavonoids) that not only protect our cells from damage, but also help to reduce inflammation in the brain. This can help slow down the aging process and keep your mind sharp for a longer time (11).
The antioxidants and fatty acids found in acai berries may also help to reduce the risk of stroke, which is associated with cognitive decline.
3. Protection From Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and it’s estimated that over 121.5 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease (10). Contributors to heart disease can include high cholesterol, inflammation and oxidative damage.
The sterols and antioxidants in acai berries have been shown to help keep cholesterol levels in check, reduce inflammation and protect cells from oxidative damage. As a result, they may help to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke (7).
In addition, the fatty acids found in acai may help to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol in the body (LDL) (1). By reducing levels of “bad” cholesterol, these fatty acids may help to keep your arteries clear and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
The fiber in acai berries can also help to reduce cholesterol levels, and some research suggests that a fiber-rich diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease (12).
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4. Protection From Cancer
- Inhibit tumor growth
- Reduce inflammation
- Protect cells from damage
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Induce cell death in cancer cells
- inhibit the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors with oxygen and nutrients
- Activate detoxifying enzymes
These effects have been observed in both animal and human studies, suggesting that acai may help reduce the risk of cancer (6). However, more research is needed to understand the full protective effects of these compounds.
In addition, the fatty acids and fiber in acai berries may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Fiber is known to help protect against colorectal cancer, while omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of breast cancer (14) (20).
5. Boost Gut Health
Acai berries are a great source of fiber, which is important for keeping your gut healthy. Fiber helps to feed beneficial bacteria in the gut, which helps to maintain a healthy balance in your digestive system (13).
In addition, the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in acai may help to reduce inflammation in the gut, which is important for maintaining good digestive health (15).
The fiber in acai may also help prevent constipation and keep your intestines working properly. This can help improve digestion and reduce the risk of digestive disorders (17).
A healthy gut is important for maintaining overall health, and studies have linked a healthy gut microbiome with reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer (21).
6. Improve Athletic Performance
Research into acai berry consumption and athletic performance gives mixed results. Some studies have found that acai can help improve exercise performance, while other studies suggest the opposite (4) (16).
While there’s no evidence of the direct performance benefits of acai berries, they may still help athletes in other ways. Research shows the following benefits of acai consumption (16):
- Increased plasma antioxidant activity – this means that acai may help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by intense exercise
- Improved serum lipid profiles – this is a sign of better cardiovascular health
- Improved inflammatory markers – the berries reduce inflammation and muscle soreness caused by strenuous exercise
There’s no denying the many health benefits of acai berries. However, there are some claims about its potential benefits that haven’t been scientifically proven yet. Studies on human health and acai berries are still in their early stages, so more research is needed to understand its full potential.
Overstating the potential benefits of acai berries is dangerous, especially when it comes to serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. It’s important to remember that no single food can cure or prevent these conditions, and that a healthy lifestyle is the most important factor in reducing the risk of these illnesses.
As far as weight loss, there is no evidence that acai berries are in any way beneficial for weight loss.
Studies have shown that they may reduce the risk of obesity (by helping to reduce inflammation and improve gut health), but there is no evidence that consuming acai alone will cause weight loss (9). Weight loss should be achieved through a combination of healthy diet and regular physical activity (25).
In most cases, it is best to get your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables from a variety of sources. Acai berries are a nutritious addition to your diet, but they should not be the only source of nutrients.
Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is key to maintaining good health (18).
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How to Add Acai to Your Diet
Acai berries can be found in the frozen section of many supermarkets and health food stores. They are also available as puree, powder, capsules, or juice.
When buying frozen acai berries, make sure to check the ingredients list and look for 100% pure acai puree with no added sugars. Acai powder is also a great option for adding to smoothies or other recipes.
Buying acai products with added sugar and artificial sweeteners should be avoided. As they may contain fewer nutrients and more calories than pure acai.
Beware of juices, especially the filtered kind, as they lack fiber and therefore have a lower nutrient and antioxidant content than whole purees or powder.
It’s rare to find fresh acai berries outside of Central and South America. But if you do find them, make sure to use them quickly as they have a short shelf life.
When you identify a healthy, nutritious acai product you can enjoy it as part of a balanced diet.
Ideas To Get The Most Of Acai Health Benefits
- Make an acai bowl – by far the most popular way to enjoy this super berry. Layer your favorite fruit, nuts, and seeds with acai puree or powder for a nutrient-rich breakfast or snack.
- Add to smoothies – blend with banana, pineapple, and other frozen fruit for a refreshing summer smoothie.
- Make acai popsicles – blend acai puree with frozen fruit and yogurt to make a healthy treat.
- Bake with acai – add some acai powder to muffins or other baked goods for added nutrition.
- Mix with yogurt or oatmeal – top your morning yogurt or oats with some acai puree for extra flavor and nutrition.
- Add to salads – top your favorite salad with some acai powder for a unique twist.
- Mix into sauces – blend acai puree with your favorite tomato sauce for a delicious and healthy dinner.
- Make an acai latte – combine acai powder with your favorite plant-based milk for a creamy, healthy latte.
- Drink as a juice – sip on some acai juice for a refreshing and nutritious start to your day.
- Whip up a dip – mix some acai powder with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic for a delicious veggie dip.
- Add to energy bars – blend acai powder with nut butter and other ingredients, then bake for a nutritious snack.
Acai berries are a nutritious superfood full of antioxidants and essential nutrients. They may help reduce inflammation, improve digestion and gut health, and protect cells from oxidative damage.
However, more research is necessary to understand the full potential of acai berries and their effects on human health. When consuming acai products, it’s important to look for pure acai with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) dietary intake affects plasma lipids, apolipoproteins, cholesteryl ester transfer to high-density lipoprotein and redox metabolism: A prospective study in women (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Açai Berry Mitigates Parkinson’s Disease Progression Showing Dopaminergic Neuroprotection via Nrf2-HO1 Pathways (2022, link.springer.com)
- ACAI BERRY POWDER (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Amazonian Fruits in Exercise and Sport: narrative review study Ozanildo Vilaça do Nascimento (2021, researchgate.net)
- Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Anticancer potential, molecular mechanisms and toxicity of Euterpe oleracea extract (açaí): A systematic review (2018, journals.plos.org)
- Antioxidant and Hypolipidemic Activity of Açai Fruit Makes It a Valuable Functional Food (2020, mdpi.com)
- A Preliminary Assessment of the Nutraceutical Potential of Acai Berry (Euterpe sp.) as a Potential Natural Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease (2022, mdpi.com)
- Berry Anthocyanins in Rodent and Human Obesity and Diabetes: A Review of the Evidence (2022, mdpi.com)
- Cardiovascular diseases affect nearly half of American adults, statistics show (2019, heart.org)
- Dietary Effects of Anthocyanins in Human Health: A Comprehensive Review (2021, mdpi.com)
- Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota (2021, mdpi.com)
- Dietary Fibre Protective against Colorectal Cancer Patients in Asia: A Meta-Analysis (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Diet-Derived Antioxidants and Their Role in Inflammation, Obesity and Gut Microbiota Modulation (2021, mdpi.com)
- Effects of supplementation with acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry-based juice blend on the blood antioxidant defence capacity and lipid profile in junior hurdlers. A pilot study (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Integrated Role of Nutrition and Physical Activity for Lifelong Health (2019, mdpi.com)
- Neuroprotective activities of acai berries (Euterpe sp.): A review (2022, researchgate.net)
- Omega-3 fatty acids for breast cancer prevention and survivorship (2015, biomedcentral.com)
- Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Phytochemical and nutrient composition of the freeze-dried amazonian palm berry, Euterpe oleraceae mart. (acai) (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Phytosterols in the Treatment of Hypercholesterolemia and Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Polyphenolic composition and antioxidant activity of açai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) from Colombia (2017, sciencedirect.com)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)