The Real Benefits of Acai Berries
Recently the acai berry (pronounced ah-sah-yee) has been appearing in everything from weight loss supplements to women’s makeup, but is this berry really the super food it’s being claimed to be? Let’s take a closer look at this tiny fruit with such a big following.
The acai berry grows on a type of palm tree in the tropical climates of South and Central America. The purplish-bluish fruit resembles a blueberry, except it is more spherical. The berries can be eaten raw, as a juice, freeze dried, or may be consumed in an oil or extract form. The extract is often included in various nutritional supplements such as vitamins or weight loss pills.
For their size, these berries contain a very high amount of antioxidants, as do many other bright purple or blue foods such as blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate juice and red wine. Some studies show that acai contains higher levels of antioxidants than these foods, but other studies show they contain a comparable amount – further study will hopefully shed more light on this discrepancy.
Antioxidants are an important part of any diet because they work to reverse the actions of free radicals on the body. Free radicals occur naturally in our environment and can be found in higher numbers in areas with high air pollution. They cause damage to the body’s cells that can result in cancers, skin aging, and some diseases. Studies are ongoing about the effectiveness of antioxidants to reduce or reverse the effects of free radicals on the body, but it is a widely accepted theory that antioxidants are an important resource for the body to fight the negative effects of free radicals.
Acai berries are recommended to aid in a surprising number of ailments. Consuming acai berries is said to help with weight loss, arthritis, skin aging, erectile dysfunction, and high cholesterol. Yet it is unlikely they are effective in treating most of these conditions. Some studies show these berries may have anti inflammatory traits which may help with arthritis and to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Their high rate of antioxidants may also help to slow the effects of aging of the body, which explains why it is included in many skin care products. Yet other than the fact that acai berries are generally a healthy food, there is nothing to indicate that it aids in weight loss or to ameliorate any other illness.
Seeing as acai berries are a type of food, not a drug (even though it is often included in supplements), there are no recorded side effects for consuming the acai berry as long is it is taken alone, rather than mixed in with a type of supplement that contains other ingredients that may have side effects. Whether or not acai berries are a so-called “super food”, they are rich in antioxidants as well as fiber and are a healthy and nutritious food to add to any diet!
Rice University, “Antioxidants and Free Radicals.” Last modified June 1996. Accessed February 23, 2014. rice.edu/~jenky/sports/antiox.html. Rothman, Jean. everydayhealth.com, “The Truth About the Acai Berry and Weight Loss.” Last modified July 04, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2014.everydayhealth.com/weight/acai-berry-weight-loss.aspx.
Zeratsky, Katherine. mayoclinic.org, “Acai berries: Do they have health benefits?.” Last modified May 22, 2012. Accessed February 23, 2014. mayoclinic.org/acai/expert-answers/FAQ-20057794.
Johnson, Kimball. webmd.com, “Acai Berries and Acai Berry Juice — What Are the Health Benefits?.” Last modified June 23, 2012. Accessed February 23, 2014. webmd.com/diet/acai-berries-and-acai-berry-juice-what-are-the-health-benefits.
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