This South American fruit has been one of the richest food sources for centuries for the natives of the Amazon but it recently has started gaining immense popularity across the world as well, for some of its excellent health benefits. The Amazon people of Brazil have been using the açaí from many years and they seem to have basically known that it had all these super-food powers without being formally educated about it. Scientists today are still discovering all the wonderful things that the açaí berry can do, but nevertheless, some of its well known benefits have been documented already.
In the capital city of Belem do Para, at the edge of the Amazon Rainforest, annual açaí consumption totals near 60% of the entire harvest. Until recently, açaí was almost unheard of in the United States, or even anywhere outside the Amazon regions of Brazil. Because açaí holds its nutritional value for only 24 hours after harvest, exportation of the fruit was limited to only the close regions of the Amazon. The berries must be immediately processed and frozen within 24 hours to maintain its nutritional qualities. More than 90% of the Acai berry consists of the core and only 10% is pulp.
It was not until the introduction of plant processing and logistics for the handling of refrigerated products that açaí could begin to be exported from the Amazon region. When the berries are picked from the palm trees, they are transported on wagons running along rails to process plants in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. In 1990, the first exports of açaí were made to southern Brazil.
Today in the city of Belem, the açaí industry employs over 30,000 people. Because the majority of açai is wild-harvested, açaí has become a great alternative industry to the depletion of the Amazon for cattle ranching, logging, or soy farming.
The fruit is a small, round, black-purple drupe about 1 inch (25 mm) in circumference, similar in appearance but smaller than a grape and with less pulp, and produced in branched of 500 to 900 fruits. The ripe fruit is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the kind of açaí and its maturity.
Açai is one of the world’s most nutritious and healthiest “Power Fruits.” It contains cell-protecting anti-oxidants, omega acids for building cells, amino acids for endurance as well as calcium and iron for building the body.
It is known to contain significant amounts of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 as well as monounsaturated oleic acid. Açaí berries also have a high concentration of blue pigmented antioxidants and it has the one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) values amongst fruits. As we all know, free radicals are the cause of all harm in our bodies, including the ageing process and açaí berries are excellent in absorbing these free radicals.
Açaí berries have as many as nineteen different amino acids for building healthy proteins and it has plenty of dietary fiber as well which helps out in digestion. They also contain less sugar and have plenty of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus and vitamins such as beta-carotene and vitamin E. One of the most amazing qualities of açaí berries is that since it has such a high concentration of anti-oxidants, it is also being considered as a cancer fighter, and research is being conducted to verify this aspect.
These berries can be consumed as supplements, or you can get it in powder form, which can be added to smoothies and juices. No matter how you consume it, it’s bound to benefit you in many ways, so make it a part of your regular diet. Here’s a quick look at what the açaí berry can do for your body:
- Boosts energy
- Detoxifies the body
- Has anti-allergenic substance
- Helps people sleep better
- Helps with digestive upset
- Improves circulation and functioning of the heart
- Improves mental function
- Improves vision
- Is an antiviral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic agent
- Makes the immune system stronger
- Promotes skin health
- Reduces inflammation
- Regulates the levels of cholesterol in the body
- Slows down the aging process
HOW TO ENJOY
Freeze dried açaí can be bought at a health food store and enjoyed in sorbets, yogurts, juice or mixed with other natural products for an energizing and delicious treat.