by Skylar Morelli
What is the hype with acai berries? Acai berries (pronounced ah-sigh-eeh) are indigenous to the Amazon and have become popular in America as a “superfood.” They are rich in omegas, antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols, and anthocyanins. The berries are dark purple and taste like a combination of red wine and chocolate. You can find these versatile berries in many forms such as juice, energy drinks, powders, capsules, cosmetics (seriously), and in delicious bowls! You can get acai bowls at most juice bars – if you’re willing to pay $10-$12 for one. You can also make your own with this quick, delicious, grad student budget-friendly recipe!
1 100-gram pack of frozen acai berry pulp
1 tbsp. almond butter
½ cup milk of choice
1 banana cut in half
A handful of your favorite berries
¼ cup granola (optional)
A pinch of coconut shreds (optional)
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Total cost for ingredients: $20-25 (makes 4)
In a blender, add frozen acai pack, almond butter, milk, half the banana, and half the berries. Blend until everything is mixed. If mixture is not fully blending, add another ¼ cup of milk. The consistency should be too thick for a straw, but perfect for eating with a spoon. Pour mixture into a bowl. Next add chopped banana and berries on top, and finish by sprinkling on granola and coconut. You can get creative with recipes and add your own fruits and toppings of choice! Enjoy!
Acai berries have been touted as a “superfood” for years. Unless you go to South America, you will likely find acai in many forms, but not the berries themselves. The berries go rancid within 24 hours of being picked due to their high fat content (in case you were wondering why you haven’t seen an actual acai berry in the US). They are nutrient dense; low in carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol; and are naturally sugar-free.
What the lay press says
The lay press loves to hype up the benefits of acai with claims ranging from cancer fighting, to anti-aging, to weight loss. While none of these claims have been proven, it is known that acai berries are rich in powerful nutrients like polyphenols, anthocyanins, and other antioxidants.
What the research says
Currently there is inconclusive evidence to support any health benefits of consuming acai. Numerous studies however, have observed potent antioxidant properties of acai berries in humans. An in vivo pilot study looked at effects of acai berries on metabolic biomarkers of 10 overweight adults (BMI between 25 and 30). Subjects drank 100 grams of acai pulp twice a day for a month. Compared to baseline, fasting glucose significantly decreased from 98.0 ± 10.1 mg/dl to 92.8 ± 10.9 mg/dl. Plasma fasting insulin also significantly decreased after one month. A 2015 research review suggests that acai berries can interfere with and inhibit metabolic pathways that lead to inflammation and oxidative stress – two risk factors for chronic disease.
Acai berries have sparked a lot of interest and a clear need for more research. Most studies have used rats and in vitro cell cultures, though researchers have recognized the need for more in vivo, human, trials. In the meantime, stay tuned to new research and enjoy this refreshing, antioxidant-rich, summer treat!
Skylar Morelli is a second-year NutComm Student. She believes the sunshine and ocean are the most potent forms of therapy.