Acai. If you don't know how to pronounce that word then you probably didn't understand the pun in this title. So here we go: AH-sigh-EE. Now that we cleared that up, let's go to it.

Acai berries are small, dark purple, and nutrient-packed with many other health benefits. Fun fact: they technically are not considered berries, but drupes, which are fruits that contain a pit inside rather than multiple seeds.1 For the non-botanists among us, classifying acai as berries will work just fine.

Acai hails from the Amazon rainforests of South and Central America and is grown on the acai palm tree. Each tree can reach 50-100 feet tall, producing four to eight 13-pound acai bunches a year! Because of where acai is found, it is rare that they can be found in fresh form within the United States. They have a very short shelf life, starting to perish not even 24 hours after harvest.2 This is the case for many fresh fruits, and one of the main reasons we freeze dry our products (sorry, another shameless plug). Other common forms of acai seen in the U.S. are frozen, dried, powdered, or pureed.

So, what does acai taste like? Surprisingly not sweet. Acai contains 0.02% sugar, making it a keto diet-friendly fruit.3 Rather, it’s tart, with hints of earthiness (cue wine glass swirl). Some say it tastes like a combination of raspberry, blackberry, and dark chocolate. We’ll sign up for that.

Acai The Benefits

Benefit 1: Full of healthy fat

For its small size, acai is fully loaded with healthy fats (we repeat: HEALTHY. Fats.), including monounsaturated fats and omega fatty acids. Here’s why they’re healthy: monounsaturated fats help reduce the risk factors for heart disease and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. To pack the most punch, monosaturated fats should replace some saturated (the unhealthy fats) in your diet.4 Some foods with unhealthy fats could be fatty meats, processed foods such as snacks or bakery items, and higher-fat dairy. But have no fear! There are lots of healthier alternatives. Try lower-fat options of meat like chicken and lean beef, try snacks without loads of sugar and additives (yet again, another shameless plug. Our freeze dried fruit snacks have nothing added at all.), or maybe even make the switch to skim milk or plant based milk, and choose lower-fat cheeses.5 Omega fatty acids have several benefits but are most known for boosting the immune system and promoting proper function of the brain and eyes. Some studies have shown that increased intake of omega fatty acids is linked to reduced risk of inflammatory diseases and depression.6 The most common intake of omega fatty acids are through fish like salmon or tuna, eggs, yogurt, or an everyday supplement.

Benefit 2: Contains essential minerals

Our body needs metals and minerals to function. Kind of a strange thought, right? But indeed, trace amounts are necessary for proper bodily function, from hormone production, energy production, bone development, nerve signaling, and beyond. Acai contains the essential minerals copper, magnesium, and phosphorous. Many people are deficient in them given that our bodies cannot produce these minerals, thus need to consume them.

Copper is found in all human bodily tissues and supports the circulatory system by forming red blood cells and maintaining blood vessel health. Copper also aids in iron absorption; a lack of copper can lead to anemia and osteoporosis.7

Magnesium helps to strengthen bones, relieve constipation, and notably, regulate blood pressure. Magnesium accomplishes this by promoting production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and thus decreases blood pressure. Given this role, magnesium can be used to treat eclampsia—a dangerously high spike in blood pressure during pregnancy which can result in seizures or coma.8

Phosphorus helps to build bones and teeth, remove waste from kidneys, and make proteins involved in tissue repair and making DNA and RNA. Phosphorus also helps the body to process carbohydrates, which is one of the main energy sources that the body utilizes.9

Benefit 3: Helps lower cholesterol

Acai is proven to help decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol that can build-up in arteries and increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Now as with fats, not all cholesterol is bad. Your body actually needs high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which is considered good cholesterol, to protect the brain’s nerves, healthy cells, and regulate hormones. HDL transports LDL to the liver, where the LDL is then excreted from the body. It is important to keep your LDL levels in check by implementing a healthy diet and regular exercise.10 Notably, acai berries have anthocyanins, which provide pigments that give fruits and berries their color. Anthocyanins have been shown to improve LDL levels.11

Benefit 4: Extremely rich in antioxidants

Acai berries contain 12 times the antioxidant content of blueberries. Once again, anthocyanins are the key here. They are clinically proven to help neutralize cells, fight off free radicals, and prevent certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart failure. But what are free radicals? Harmful toxins that the body is externally exposed to with environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, radon, asbestos, air pollution, and UV light.12 Healthy internal factors such as energy production inherently result in free radicals. The body constantly fights these free radicals, and consuming anthocyanins is a tool that can help. 

Proanthocyanidins are molecules that, like anthocyanins, give fruits and berries their color. Proanthocyanidins strengthen the immune system by stimulating the formation of T-cells, which are a lymphatic cell that is the body’s first line of defense in an immunocompromised situation. Proanthocyanidins also help to prevent coronary heart diseases and strengthen artery walls, while also having anti-inflammatory properties and providing pain relief caused by arthritis.13

Benefit 5: May suppress cell growth

Interestingly, acai’s properties have been studied in oncology research. These studies indicate that acai may help prevent or reduce the formation and division of cancer cells due to their high levels of vitamin C and phytochemicals—chemical compounds found in plants that allow them to combat fungi, bacteria, and infections. In the human body, phytochemicals have protective and disease preventative properties.14

Benefit 6: Improves brain health and function

Even in later stages of life, food can positively (and negatively) impact brain health. Acai, given their high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, fall within the good category. The effects of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, may be reduced with
antioxidants. Both memory and autophagy—the removal of dead or damaged cells within the brain—decline as people age, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.15 Studies conducted at Tufts University have found that acai berries helped to improve memory in aging rats, and may have stimulated autophagy.  

Benefit 7: Reduces the risks of heart attacks and strokes

Yet again, anthocyanin to the rescue. This little antioxidant is plentiful in acai berries, as it lowers bad cholesterol, which in turn promotes a healthy heart.

Studies show that regular consumption of antioxidant-rich fruit can help protect the heart from oxidative stress, which is when free radicals are running a little too freely around the body, with not enough antioxidants present combatting the harmful effects of free radicals. An increase in antioxidants and decrease in oxidative stress can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.16

Benefit 8: Boosts energy levels

Need energy? Maybe swap that second cup of coffee for an acai smoothie. The contents of acai berries can boost energy levels, combating fatigue and stress. Acai also increases stamina, providing more energy for better endurance and muscle performance. This is useful for athletes in training or active individuals in general.17

Acai can boost energy levels because they support the health of most major organ systems. With these systems working optimally, your body functions more efficiently.

Benefit 9: Regulates the digestive system

Acai has prebiotic effects, meaning that when acai is digested, its fiber and polyphenols serve as fuel for the good bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal tract and colon, supporting a healthy digestive system by boosting the metabolism, improving appetite regulation, and reducing inflammation.18 Having a healthy gut helps the body with nutrient absorption, food digestion, and keeps your blood sugar levels in check. Prebiotics can also help gut diseases like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) become more manageable.19 

Acai berries are also anti-genotoxic agents, meaning that they contain chemicals that stimulate DNA repair and prevent cellular damage and mutations that could lead to cancer.

Benefit 10: Promotes a healthy nervous system

Acai berries contain a high amount of fatty acids, which promote a healthy nervous system. How do fatty acids promote a healthy nervous system, you might ask? Well, fatty acids enable proper neuron function and improve nerve transmissions.20 They do this by providing your lipid-rich brain with 22 carbons and 6 double bonds known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  And what is DHA? The primary structural component of your brain, cerebral cortex, skin, and retinas. 21

Additionally, studies by the Clinical Nutrition Journal have shown that acai berries increase motor function and coordination, and berries have a natural way of increasing nerve function and muscle control in patients with Parkinson’s disease specifically.22 As stated previously, it is a good idea to increase your intake of berries with deep red or blue colors, because they feature anthocyanins, which are linked to preventative age-related cognitive decline.23

The Gist

Acai is a tiny but mighty fruit that is low in sugar and high in about all the other goods: essential vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and chemical compounds that can serve as aids for digestion and appetite regulation, stimulating the metabolism, maintaining brain function, and repairing and preventing cellular damage.

Sow Good’s Goods – Featuring Acai:

Blue Your Mind (Acai and Blueberry Granola)

Acai the Light (Acai and Almond Granola)

Berry Godmother Smoothie

Acai of Relief Smoothie

How good does that sound? Sow Good, we know. Meet our founders and learn what Sow Good means to them!

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