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Acai berries – nature's 'filler'

09 October 2014, 07:52Susan Erasmus

Acai berries are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre and heart-healthy fats.

As a result, there are some huge claims made for their benefits, such as that they possesses cancer-fighting and anti-ageing properties.

While we wait for more research results to confirm these proposed benefits, it can’t hurt to get your hands on these exotic, nutrient-rich berries – or extracts of them – to add to meals, drinks and snacks.

Background and history

Acai berries are the fruit of the acai palm tree, which grows in the rainforests of South America. The trees can grow up to a height of 25m and its berries are reddish-purple in colour and about 2,5cm long. Interestingly, acai berries are related to blueberries and cranberries.

Although acai berries have grown for thousands of years in the Amazon basin, they were only introduced to the western world in the 1990s.

These berries have been used by the traditional populations of the rainforests as immune-stimulating supplements and energy boosters for centuries.

There has been a huge amount of publicity surrounding acai berries and their health properties. Like other foods classified as superfoods, they have a very high nutritional content for the number of kilojoules they contain.

Health benefits

Acai-berry pulp has a very high antioxidant capacity. Specifically, it’s rich in polyphenols, anthocyanin, anthocyanidins and other flavonoids.

Apart from the possible cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties associated with foods rich in the above antioxidants, the other health benefits ascribed to these berries include the following:

- An energy booster that promotes strength and endurance. This is because acai berries contain antioxidants, amino acids, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals.
- A digestive aid. The high fibre content of acai berries can help prevent or relieve constipation.
- An anti-ageing agent (some beauty products contain acai berries). Acai berries contain calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper. They’re also source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and E.
- Weight-loss agent. (This benefit remains unsubstantiated.)
- Arthritis cure and a help for depression. (These benefits remain unsubstantiated.) 

How to enjoy acai berries

Acai berries can be bought in powdered or capsule form. In Australia, organic acai berries are also available from several companies that sell frozen berries.

Acai berries can be eaten as is. The fresh berries – or acai-berry extract – can be eaten with breakfast cereals, or in desserts or smoothies. You can also juice the berries. In short, treat them as you would any other berry.

What distinguishes acai berries from other berries, however, is that they’re a rich source of healthy fats, which means they’ll keep you fuller for longer. Enjoy!

- Health24

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