Acai: The proof is in the berry

| Health Columnist

Just one Google search, and I am bombarded with the “health and wellness” benefits of açaí. Pronounced “Ah-sigh-ee,” this powerful berry has been picked up on several radar screens with news coverage from ABC News, CBS’s “The Early Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” as well as an article in The Washington Post. It seems this berry—discovered by Westerners only within the past 10 or 15 years—is becoming the new craze in health food stores and Hollywood Boulevard alike. Touted for its disease-fighting nutrients, rich, aromatic taste—a mix of red wine and dark chocolate—and its weight loss proprieties, health foodies as well as actors are flocking to the stores to purchase the berry in fresh, frozen and dried forms and in pulp, juice, tea and pills.

So why açaí, and why now? I had been hearing about the berry for the past few months, but it wasn’t until my roommate asked me about it that I recognized just how popular this little berry had become, and for good reason. Açaí, harvested in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil, has been recognized as a “superfood” by many doctors for its nutrition—namely, its high concentration of antioxidants, dietary fiber, amino acids and essential fatty acids. What does this mean for your body? It will help combat premature aging, promote cardiovascular and digestive health and allow for proper muscle function, restoration and rejuvenation. As college students, we can also benefit from the high energy effects of açaí, as many have remarked that the boost of energy it gives can carry them throughout the day. Due to its juice and pulp forms, it can be mixed into breakfast smoothies, blending with other fruits seamlessly.

Hollywood has become obsessed with acaí because it has been known to slow aging as well as decrease appetite—thus creating a one-stop panacea for several actors/actresses. Whether there is any real proof to support the side effects of the berry is still questionable. While the antioxidants and nutrients have been shown to reduce diseases associated with old age—high cholesterol, heart disease, etc.—there is no proof that indicates açaí is an “anti-aging” berry. In a certain light, we can view the berry as such, and certainly it seems that including it as part of a healthy diet will improve overall health, but I am skeptical about the long-term benefits of using such a berry, since no long-term usage has been documented. In addition, many of the Web sites promoting the berry coincidentally sell the açaí berry products; a fact that clearly creates an established bias. As far as weight-loss miracle stories, aside from a few testimonials of successful users, there is no real proof that it works as a diet supplement to reduce appetite. However, I would most definitely promote the use of açaí before resorting to medications, drugs or starvation diets, and so it is definitely worth a shot! Also, what separates it from other Hollywood crash diets is that the diet does not mean only eating açaí or doing any sort of crazy ritualistic dieting patterns. Just including açaí berries into yogurt, smoothies, salads or breads is part of the trick because then you can consume them as part of a healthy diet and reap the benefits.

As always, my recommendation is to go out there and try it! Açaí products are sold at Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Schnucks along with several other retail grocery stores—so what are you waiting for? After all, like they say, the proof is in the pudding—or rather, the proof is in the berry.

Information from this article was gathered from: www.acai.vg, www.acaiberrynutrient.com, www.oprah.com, www.acaiberryjuice.org, www.ehow.com, and www.acaiberryjuice.org.