Ingredient Spotlight: Acai Fruit
Acai berries are a Brazilian superfruit native to the Amazon rainforest where they are considered a staple. It’s only in recent years that they’ve gained popularity globally as more and more evidence emerges regarding acai’s health benefits.
Here are five of the most well-known health benefits of this powerful little fruit:
1) They’re Nutrient-Dense
Acai berries have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit, as they’re somewhat high in fat and low in sugar. According to a Venezuelan study, acai berries also contain some other trace minerals, including chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
But some of acai’s most powerful health benefits come from plant compounds. The most notable one among these is anthocyanins, which give acai berries their deep purple color and act as antioxidants in the body.
2) They’re Loaded with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are important because they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body. If free radicals are not neutralized by antioxidants, they can damage cells and lead to a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Acai berries have an incredibly high amount of antioxidants, edging out other antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries and cranberries.
3) They May Improve Cholesterol Levels
Animal studies have suggested that acai could help improve cholesterol levels by decreasing total and LDL cholesterol. And it’s possible that it could have a similar effect in humans. A 2011 study had 10 overweight adults eat acai smoothies twice daily for one month. Overall, they had lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol at the end of the study. While more research is needed, it’s possible that the anthocyanins in acai could be responsible for their positive impact on cholesterol levels, since studies have linked this plant compound to improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol In addition, acai contains plant sterols, which prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by your body.
4) They May Have a Possible Anti-Cancer Effect
While no one food is a magic shield against cancer, some foods are known to stop cancer cells from forming and spreading. Both test-tube and animal studies have revealed this sort of anti-cancer effect in acai. In mice, acai pulp has reduced the incidence of colon and bladder cancer.
Researchers have concluded that acai could have a role in treating cancer in the future, yet more research is needed, including in humans.
5) They Could Boost Brain Function
The many plant compounds in acai could also protect your brain from damage as you age.
The antioxidants in acai counteract the damaging effects of inflammation and oxidation in brain cells, which can negatively affect memory and learning. In one study, acai even helped improve memory in aging rats. One of the ways in which the brain stays healthy is by cleaning up cells that are toxic or no longer working, a process known as autophagy. It makes way for new nerves to form, enhancing communication between brain cells.