Quick Acai Summary Points
- Acai is a berry that has been elevated up to super food status over the last decade and still remains popular as a health food.
- Coming from Central & South America, Acai has an excellent nutrient profile full of good fats, fibre, protein and low in sugar.
- Acai has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can benefit heart health, exercise recovery and testosterone levels
- Acai can easily be added in to smoothies, shakes and other foods to boost its nutrient density
- Acai can be stacked with most other supplements including protein, pre workouts and fat burners
What is Acai?
Acai (or assai) is a berry super food that has exploded onto the health food scene recently. It is packed full of potentially health promoting nutrients, some of which are well known among the scientific community for reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels and as antioxidants. Furthermore, acai also contains unique nutrients that were previously undiscovered, that can also contribute to good overall health.
Acai berries grow on the acai palm (Euterpe oleracea Mart.), which are native to Central and South America. These palms produce small dark purple berries that can be harvested to eat.
Acai has an impressive nutrient profile which is high in good monounsaturated and omega 6 fats and fibre, while also containing protein and very little sugar. Quite often when we consider the benefits of a plant food, the term "flavonoid" is often mentioned. Flavonoids are plant metabolites that exhibit a range of health promoting effects. Acai berries contain five anthocyanin flavonoids, two of which were previously undiscovered elsewhere (Schauss et al, 2006b). The flavonoids found in acai have been reported to exhibit antioxidant (Schauss et al, 2006a) and anti-inflammatory properties (Kang et al, 2011). These properties may assist in improving recovery times.
Surprisingly, acai does not actually contain much vitamin C. However, it's a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and even iron. Acai also contains 18 amino acids in measurable quantities. One of these is aspartic acid, which can be converted to D aspartic acid, an amino acid with testosterone boosting potential. Low concentrations of the oestrogen blocking compound, resveratrol has also been found (Schauss et al, 2006b).
Acai Benefits for Heart Health
Acai has only recently been brought to the attention of the scientific community, and as such, there is little research looking into the benefits of acai berries. However, a recent pilot study has shown that supplementing with 100 g acai pulp twice per day was effective in reducing total and LDL cholesterol of overweight individuals (Udani et al, 2011). The findings of this study have been supported by animal trials (de Souza et al, 2010). The reduction of total and LDL cholesterol are markers for good cardiovascular health and reduces the likelihood of heart disease.
Acai Benefits for Fat Loss
It has been found that the proteins present in acai shows an inhibitory effect on alpha amylase (a carbohydrate digestive enzyme) (Araujo et al, 2004). This gives acai potential to act as a carb blocker (similar to white kidney bean). The action of carb blockers help to decrease the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and can be an effective weight loss aid.
Acai Negatives and Side Effects
Few toxicological and safety studies have been performed on acai. However, acai is an edible fruit that is very popular in South American countries such as Brazil. In fact, acai is a staple for the traditional natives of the Amazon region.
One thing to take note of when shopping for acai is that many online companies run acai based scams, as well as making unsubstantiated claims. Make sure you are vigilant and purchase from a reputable retailer.
Acai Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
As of yet, there really is no recommended dose for acai. The Brazilian natives eat large amounts of it, as it is a staple food in their diet, while small amounts can be used like a multivitamin.
Although acai is a flavourful fruit, it contains very little sugar, which may make it taste bland to some people. Feel free to mix it into your usual shake or smoothy containing sweeter fruits such as bananas and other berries rich in antioxidants.
Acai can be found as a stand-alone nutritional supplement as acai powder. It can also be found in some blended antioxidant supplements, which makes perfect sense given that acai is very rich in a variety of antioxidants. Some manufacturers are also quite fond of acai and use this ingredient across their range. Look out for it on the back of the label.
Although acai contains many nutrients, it's not 100% complete. Consider stacking acai with other vitamin and mineral supplements, or adding it to an antioxidant supplement if it doesn't already contain acai.
Araujo et al (2004), Biological activity of proteins from pulps of tropical fruits. Food Chemistry, 85: 107-110
Kang et al (2011), Flavonoids from acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp and their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Food Chemistry, 126: 152-157
Schauss et al (2006a), Antioxidant Capacity and Other Bioactivities of the Freeze-Dried Amazonian Palm Berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (Acai). J. Agric. Food Chem., 54: 8604-8610
Schauss et al (2006b), Phytochemical and Nutrient Composition of the Freeze-Dried Amazonian Palm Berry, Euterpe oleraceae Mart. (Acai), Agric. Food Chem., 54: 8598-8603
de Souza et al (2010), Diet supplementation with acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) pulp improves biomarkers of oxidative stress and the serum lipid profile in rats. Nutrition, 26: 804-810
Udani et al (2011), Effects of Açai ( Euterpe oleracea Mart.) berry preparation on metabolic parameters in a healthy overweight population: A pilot study. Nutrition Journal, 10 (online)