The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported in 2006 that the Acai berry contains the highest amount of antioxidants of any food plant, possibly making it a valuable addition to the diet of health-conscious people. The Acai palm (Euterpe Oleracea) is native to Brazil and grows to 100 feet tall. Many commercial products containing Acai berries are on the market, and the fruit is extremely high in antioxidants.
History of the Acai Berry
Commonly found throughout the Amazon region of South America, the Acai palm tree was introduced from northern Brazil to Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s and '80s. People living in Rio who originally hailed from the north claimed that if they ate Acai berries every day they would have increased energy. Acai was introduced to the United States in the 1990s.
What Do the Berries Contain?
Acai berries are full of antioxidants due to their high content of Anthocyanins. It's high in vitamins C and E, which assist in fighting the body's free radicals. When antioxidants are consumed, it is believed they help your body to combat aging, cancer, heart disease and also help to promote healthy hair and skin, as well as providing natural energy. Acai berries have three times more antioxidants than blueberries and twice as many as pomegranates. The berries also contain essential fatty acids, which are beneficial for good cholesterol. In addition to vitamins C and E, Acai berries also contain many B vitamins, and the minerals calcium, iron, copper, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Forms of Acai
Acai berries are processed into a large variety of products, ranging from juice to capsules to puree, powders, gels and more. Because the berries spoil within 24 hours of harvest, they are not shipped fresh out of Brazil, so if you're interested in trying them, you'll almost certainly need to take them in a processed form. Be sure to look for products that contain USDA certified organically grown berries because if the berries contain pesticides or other toxins, you could possibly be negating any of the beneficial effects of the Acai berry. If you choose juice, purchase products containing no added sugar because it will cancel out Acai's anti-inflammatory effect.
Cautions About Products
Many claims are made about the value of consuming Acai berries. Some products claim they can help in weight loss, sexual dysfunction, cancer and other unsubstantiated benefits. Some online sources offer "free samples," and then charge an exorbitant amount for shipping. The attorney general of Connecticut has issued a warning about credit card schemes that charge your card every month whether you choose that option or not. The Center for Science in the Public Interest stepped in to limit fraudulent claims and business practices because they were so "widespread, so rampant, that we felt we had to do something... There's no evidence that they work and you're just asking for trouble if you're trying to deal with one of these companies."
To Get the Best, Grow Your Own
Fresh Acai berries are difficult to find in the United States, so if you want the maximum potency of this fruit's antioxidants and other nutrients, you can try to grow your own Acai palm tree. If you live in a warm, humid climate that has a swampy area, you'll have the best success. Purchase dried fruit and plant several ½ inch deep in small pots with a well-draining potting soil. Within two months, your berries should sprout. When your young trees are one foot tall, transplant them to a swampy area that receives full sun. Fertilize with cow manure and keep the soil moist. Expect to make your first harvest of berries three years after you plant your Acai palm.