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The popularity of Açai berry products has been growing for the last few years. If you’re considering making Açai part of your diet, learn what science has to say about this superfood—and how to get the best benefits for yourself!

Açai (pronounced “Ah-Say-Ee”) is a purple, olive-sized fruit that grows on a type of palm tree in the Amazon rainforest.  Açai has been traditionally used by indigenous people for a variety of health concerns and celebrated for its energy-giving, healing properties. Besides being packed with colorful phytonutrients that provide its record-setting antioxidant properties, Açai fruit is a source of healthy omega-3 fats and dietary fibre, too.

 

As knowledge of Açai fruit has gone mainstream, its benefits have been explored both as a health-boosting supplement and a skin-care ingredient. Research has focused especially on Açai’s possible usefulness in aiding weight loss, but other benefits of the fruit may include improvement of: immune system function, heart disease and high cholesterol, arthritis and other inflammation-related disorders. A promising study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011[1] showed that subjects who took Açai pulp daily showed improvement in fasting levels of glucose, insulin and cholesterol - all important parts of healthy weight loss. Preliminary studies have also shown that Açai may help prevent tumors from being formed[2] and could even help kill cancer cells[3]. The same powerful antioxidant properties that make Açai such a superfood can also have brightening, wrinkle-reducing benefits when applied to the skin.

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Like many natural supplements, the benefits of Açai depend greatly on the quality of the product and packaging. When antioxidant properties of Açai were compared to other berries, fresh Açai had some of the highest scores recorded. This means Açai out-performed other nutritional powerhouses like blackberries, blueberries and strawberries! Unfortunately, the antioxidant power of Açai is seriously reduced if it is not processed and stored correctly. Improper storage and packaging can lead to a huge drop in the free radical “scavenging” capabilities, which translates into a reduction in health benefits[4]. This is why anyone who wants to experience the benefits of Açai should take the time to find a high-quality product. Flash-freezing the berry has found to be the best way to retain its nutrition; when Açai is transported fresh or in powdered form, its antioxidant properties actually drop below other berries! Therefore, to get the maximum benefit from this wonder food, a flash-frozen product is the best choice—unless you’re able to travel to the Amazon rainforest yourself.

 

Speaking of the Amazon rainforest, the recent popularity of Açai berries has been a mixed blessing for communities that have traditionally relied on the fruit as a staple food. In many areas, demand has raised prices significantly, making Açai more difficult for local people to buy. Therefore, investing in a fair-trade Açai product is an excellent way to get maximum health benefits for yourself while not harming the original discoverers of this miraculous superfood.


[1] https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-45

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25329001

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886139

[4] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0609779

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Author: Natalie Millis

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