Native to the Amazon rainforest, the acai berry has been a local favorite for health and wellness for thousands of years. Many people struggle to pronounce this berry’s name, but it’s simpler than you might think: ah-sah-EE.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the acai berry made its way out of the rainforests to the outside world, and news of this superfruit quickly spread. (1)
These tiny berries grow on palm trees, and the berries hang up to 60 feet above the ground. (2) Acai berries are dark blue-purple, and interestingly, some people perceive their taste as fruity and chocolatey at the same time. (3)
Acai berries are known as a superfruit for their particularly high levels of antioxidants—chemicals found in plants that have a variety of health benefits—and other nutrients. Below are eight fantastic health benefits of acai berries, as well as our suggestions as to how to incorporate acai berries into your diet.
8 Health Benefits of Acai Berries
1. Acai berries are good for the digestive system.
The average American’s diet is full of foods that lack nutrition and substance, and—for a variety of reasons—conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease are on the rise. (4)
A diet that is devoid of nutrients will eventually catch up to you sooner than later, and you will eventually find the need to do a detox as symptoms start to appear.
Acai berries can help with these conditions, as well as general stomach aches and pains, in a few different ways. First, acai berries are a great source of fiber, which is essential to keep your bowels moving smoothly and preventing constipation. One serving of acai berries contains 2 grams of fiber, which is 8 percent of the average American’s daily recommended fiber intake. (5)
Second, as mentioned above, acai berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. These antioxidants play the important role of reducing inflammation throughout the stomach and digestive tract. Inflammation plays a huge role in conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, as well as everyday conditions such as gas and bloating. (6)
2. Acai berries are heart healthy.
Every single year, millions of Americans struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and a host of other cardiovascular ailments. In fact, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for both men and women. (7) Acai berries are a great addition to anyone’s diet to keep their heart healthy.
There are two types of cholesterol found in the body: good cholesterol, or LDL, and bad cholesterol, or HDL. Both diet and genetics play a role in having healthy levels of both types of cholesterol. Recent studies have shown that eating higher levels of acai berries can help to reduce levels of HDL as well as raising levels of LDL, regardless of diet. This is due to the high levels of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. (8) Reducing high levels of HDL reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Additionally, those antioxidants we talked about, particularly one called anthocyanin, help to reduce levels of free radicals throughout the body. In the cardiovascular system, free radicals play a huge role in the development of heart disease. (9)
3. Acai berries may help fight cancer.
One of the scariest and potentially most deadly diagnoses you can receive is cancer. Every year, cancer kills 7.6 million people throughout the world. (10) While genetics and environmental factors play a role in the development of cancers, researchers are just starting to understand the effects of free radicals in the development of cancer.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that search for other molecules to bond with, seizing electrons from those other molecules. Sometimes free radicals occur naturally as a part of metabolism and digestion. Other times, free radicals are caused by carcinogens found in your environment. The body generally has enough defenses to eliminate free radicals, but when free radical production starts to occur too quickly, conditions—including cancer—can occur. (11)
Antioxidants are important for fighting cancer as they fight free radicals before they can mutate a cell’s DNA to form cancer cells and, subsequently, tumors. Antioxidants are the chemicals in plants that, among other things, give dark fruits and vegetables their beautiful colors (remember that beautiful blue/purple hue we said the acai berry has?). Compared to other fruits and vegetables, acai berries have a high number of antioxidants and are known for their potential to stop cancer before it starts. (12)
5. Acai berries may help keep your brain healthy.
As we age, it is easy to see the physical changes in the skin and feel the challenges in various body systems. However, our brain is a particularly vulnerable organ as we age, and it is often neglected until it is too late.
Age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, is not fully understood, but many believe that inflammation and free radicals play a major role. Many of the antioxidants found in acai berries can help reduce levels of inflammation and free radicals, and they may help keep the memory and reasoning parts of the brain healthy even into our elderly years. (13)
6. Acai berries can boost your immune system.
Not only do acai berries help protect your body against free radicals and the resulting damage, they also help to boost your immune system. Antioxidants also work to help the immune system fight off foreign bodies such as bacteria, viruses and microscopic fungi. (14) Vitamin C is one of the most commonly suggested antioxidants suggested at the first sign of a sniffle, and it should come as no surprise acai berries are a fantastic source of this vitamin. (15)
7. Acai berries may aid in weight loss.
With the rise in prepackaged foods, fast food restaurants and food deserts, obesity and related illnesses have been on the rise. It is estimated that one third of American adults and up to one fourth of American children suffer from obesity or being overweight. (16) Many fad diets are available, but true and lasting weight loss comes from a balanced diet, plenty of water and regular exercise.
That is not to say that acai berries can’t play an important role in your weight loss journey. Acai berries are a great source of fiber, which can help to keep your digestive system regular but can also keep you feeling full longer. (17)
8. Acai berries are great for your skin.
Many people struggle with acne throughout their teenage and young adult years. As soon as women hit 25, they are encouraged to start an expensive anti-aging regimen that is often geared toward women decades older than themselves. It can be hard to find a skin care system that truly fits your needs, and we don’t necessarily get the best advice when we go looking for products: magazine editors and beauty shop employees don’t hold advanced degrees in dermatology.
The antioxidants in acai berries can help prevent pimples, fighting inflammation from the inside. These antioxidants can also help reduce the appearance of scars, discoloration and wrinkles. (18) You can also make a DIY face mask using acai berries with the recipe found here.
How to Incorporate Acai Berries Into Your Diet
There are a variety of different health benefits associated with acai berries, but finding fresh acai berries may prove to be a challenge. These dark berries only grow in a specific area of the world, and quickly oxidize when removed from the vine and exposed to air, turning brown and losing many of their health benefits.
Unless these berries are shipped quickly, you will have to find freeze-dried acai berry powder, frozen whole berries or puree. You may also be able to find acai juice. However form you are consuming your acai berries, make sure there is little to no sugar added, particularly refined sugars. (19)
Whatever form you have found your acai berries, you can add it into your morning smoothies or yogurt. Freeze acai juice into popsicles in the summer for a delicious treat for you and your family. You can even substitute whole acai berries in your cookies instead of using chocolate chips. The possibilities are endless! (20)
The Final Word
Acai berries have exploded in recent years on the health food and fad diet scene, but it is important to decipher the difference between all of the hype and legitimate health benefits of these delicious little berries. Chances are, if a claim about the abilities of acai berries seem too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t eat acai berries or take acai berry supplements expecting miracle cures for any of your conditions. It is also important to talk with your doctor about any potential side effects you may experience from taking acai berry supplements. When in doubt, it is best to consume acai berries in the most natural and unrefined form as possible.
Acai berries have been promoted by everyone from health food bloggers to television doctors. Whatever the reason you have for increasing the levels of acai berries in your diet, know that you will experience whole body benefits—especially when you are including them in a balanced diet and not consuming them in excess.