What is Acai Berry?
Acai Berry has over 50 known antioxidants and ranks at the top of the charts by more than 10 to 1 over the next highest candidates such as cranberries and blueberries. The superoxide anion free radical scavenging capacity of freeze-dried Acai is the highest of any food.
- Acai contains all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and trace elements needed to support human health. Acai contains all of the essential amino acids and many non-essential amino acids involved in protein synthesis in the human body.
- Of 278 fruits, vegetables and nuts analyzed by the USDA, freeze-dried Acai have the highest reported antioxidant capacity for any food, regardless of moisture content.
- Acai has scores of phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, and proanthocyanidins, which have properties associated with a wide range of health benefits, including favorable responses to bacteria, viruses, carcinogens, free radicals, inflammation, and allergens.
- Botanists from several countries have documented the use of Acai as a food for more than two centuries with no significant adverse events associated with its consumption. Acai based fruit juices containing freeze dried Acai have been shown to inhibit free radical destruction of cells in the body.
- Acai can reduce oxidative stress due to naturally occurring processes such as oxygen metabolism and inflammation – the antioxidant compounds in Acai can penetrate human cells and increase antioxidant activity. Proteins in Acai have considerable inhibitory activity towards human salivary alpha-amylase, a marker of stress in humans.
- Acai contains appreciable amounts of plant fats known as phytosterols, which have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties in the human body. Acai is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber and is very low in sucrose sugar and sodium content.
Freeze-Drying is THE superior method to preserve the nutritional, phytochemical, and antioxidant capacity of Acai, compared to spray drying, sun drying, or other methods of preservation.
Health Benefits of Acai Berries
Acai berries (Euterpe oleracea) grow on palm trees in Brazil, near the Amazon River. The ripe berries are deep purple and are about the size of a blueberry. They have a thin layer of edible pulp and large seeds. Historically, Brazilians have called the juice from the fruit of the Acai palm “the milk of the Amazon,” and they’ve used Acai berries to soothe digestive disorders and skin conditions. Acai berries are gaining popularity in the United States as a potent source of antioxidants – they boast ten times the antioxidants of grapes and twice that of blueberries. In fact, Acai berries are said to have the highest concentration of antioxidants of any edible berries.
Along with more than fifty antioxidants, including cyanidin3 glucoside, which is an anthocyanin, Acai is an exceptionally good source of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and trace minerals. Acai appears to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action as well as cardioprotective qualities – it supports heart health by helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
A study conducted at the University of Florida found that Acai berry extract had promising anticancer activity in cell cultures, triggering a self-destruct response in 25 to 84 percent of the HL-60 human leukemia cells. The investigators concluded that Acai offers a rich source of bioactive polyphenolics and confirmed the importance of investigating whole-food systems when evaluating the potential health benefits of individual phytochemical compounds.back to menu ↑
What You Need to Know About the Acai Berry
The Acai fruit berry has a long history of traditional use in South America. Only through additional research on this remarkable fruit can we eventually understand the full range of its nutritional and general health enhancing benefits to humans. Theres an amazing sequence of discoveries that are presented in these Facts about Acai.
- Acai has the highest Total ORAC value of any food tested and also exerts the highest superoxide (SOD) scavenging activity of any food reported in scientific literature. Acai has been experimentally shown to be able to quench superoxide, peroxynitrite, hydroxyl, and peroxyl free radicals, using multiple antioxidant assays.
- The Acai berries also contain polyphenolics that are more powerful antioxidant compounds than those found in any other berry. In the laboratory, Acai has been found to possess powerful antioxidant activity in human cells, even when diluted down to one part-per-trillion. Moreover, its nutritional composition, showing a complete complement of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and healthy fatty acids, with a little sugar, but rich in fiber, and monounsaturated fatty acids, makes us wonder why the discovery and recognition of Acai took so long.
- Maybe it is because of lost touch with the rest of the developing world, and neglect in the bounty of nutritious foods found in places like the Amazon. Quite possibly, the natives in the Amazon would not be surprised by all this excitement over a palm berry that grows right in their backyards and is found all along the Amazon river. They have relied on it for hundreds of years as a daily part of their diet.
- One has to marvel at the profound innate knowledge that natives of the New World possessed for centuries, in selecting what to include in their diet. Given the many recently discovered nutritional and phytochemical attributes of the Acai berry, is it any wonder why Amazon residents consume this fruit with virtually every meal of the day? It would have been surprising to discover that they didnt consume these berries after all we have learned about Acai.
Acai is completely organic, needs no herbicides or fertilizers to grow, and can be cultivated and harvested in the wild. It produces fruit almost year round. Acai is highly abundant, and stands as a guardian of the rain forest of the Amazon, to protect all flora and fauna that live and thrive on it. As news of the nutritional value and antioxidant benefit of Acai reaches the attention of people throughout the Amazon, the preservation of these remarkable palm trees will help protect and perpetuate the remarkable ecosystem known as the Amazon in which Acai palm trees grow. The Acai berry is indeed a Super Food.back to menu ↑
Discovery of The Acai Berry Superfood
Until 2000, no one imported significant amounts of Acai into the United States or other countries around the world, so interest in this superfood was in limbo until the beginning of the 21st century. Some companies promoted and marketed Acai products in the early 2000s via distribution in juice bars and mass-market outlets. This used spray dried or frozen Acai, which according to this Acai article has significantly less of the nutritional and phytochemical composition, and antioxidant activity, of the freeze, dried Acai, which locks in these components.
Further, these companies relied on studies out of Brazil, without performing independent studies to verify them or study their own products to support any implied claims they were making. Instead, they primarily relied on folklore, which is not an uncommon approach used to market exotic foods.
- Demand for the Acai berry has surged in recent years, bringing with it the attention of nutritionists and health care practitioners around the world. But more than anything, the media has played a major role in its popularity. Here are some samples of quotations about Acai that have appeared in various publications in recent years:
- …twice the antioxidants of blueberries and a taste like blackberries crossed with chocolate.” Time magazine, February 14, 2005.
- Rich in antioxidants and amino acids, Acai is thought to be one of the most nutritional fruits of the Amazon basin.” New York Times, August 4, 2004.
- For those put off by juiced wheatgrass and bored with low-carb bars, there is Acai. Acai…the purple fruit of the palm berry plant purportedly contains more antioxidants than red wine and has a beguiling berry-like flavor with intense chocolate overtones. ” The Washington Post, August 11, 2004.
- The latest look-better, live-longer superfood? It is the Acai fruit. It’s what Denise Richards swears by; what Kelly Slater downs before surfing competition. It’s Acai, a multipurpose mega-booster berry that Hollywood has been hooked on. People Magazine, January 30, 2006.
- Wheatgrass, protein shakes so 2002. At juice bars and health stores around the country the hip new taste of Acai. Acai packed with anthocyanins, the same anthocyanins that give red wine its health benefits.” The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2003.
- Acai is the fruit of an Amazonian palm tree with the nutritional content that makes other fruits blush with inadequacy. The London Times, September 20, 2003.
- Acai pulp contains 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine; a synergy of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber, and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health; and an almost sambazon essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration. NBC Today Show, November 26, 2007
- In 2004, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD, author of The Perricone Promise, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where he told Oprah that the Acai berry is his number one choice as a “superfood” because it was “packed full of antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.”
National television news shows have also given Acai coverage. For example, NBC-TVs The Today Show reported that “The Anomabi Indians have believed for centuries that Acai holds unique power and is believed to help women alter birth and to give anyone who drinks it a burst of energy.”back to menu ↑
Why is The Acai Berry Freeze Dried?
The Acai berry has the highest antioxidant capacity as discovered during lab tests of any fruit or vegetable. This is a secret thats been hard to keep in recent years. It is also determined that the freeze-dried form of the pulp and skin of the Acai berry returns the highest level of antioxidants able to scavenge free radicals in these same tests, compared to any other food preservation method. This has been a very important early discovery.
- Freeze drying produces a superior Acai product. This is especially superior to spray dried Acai, which lots of suppliers both inside and outside Brazil offer. Other not so effective methods of preservation also include refractive window drying, thin film drying, and sun drying.
It has been known for decades that there only two superior ways to preserve the nearly 100% of the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables freeze drying and flash freezing. But the problem encountered is cost, and if it’s too expensive for people to purchase, it makes no economic sense to sell and eat Acai. Actually, freeze drying can be ten times more expensive than spray drying.
- Even more important is that certain processing effects the Acai berry polyphenols. Spray drying is done with heat. Major losses of monomeric anthocyanins occur during storage of thermally (heat) processed berries. Since these anthocyanins contribute to the Acai antioxidant activity, it makes no sense to use spray dried berries for additional lab testing and fact finding research.
Freeze drying is done in a vacuum, limiting the activation of enzymes, which otherwise quickly break down compounds in the Acai fruit such as polyphenols, that give the food its antioxidant capacity.back to menu ↑
An Acai Berry Antioxidant Mystery
Acai may indeed be a “Super Food”, as described by Harvard University physician, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, in his book entitled The Perricone Promise. However, this fruit is only super when the source is preserved through freeze-drying as described inback to menu ↑
Why Is The Acai Berry Freeze Dried?
No matter how one tries to compare different foods to Acai fruit or to freeze dried Acai, the freeze dried fruit is superior in oxygen radical absorption scavenging capacity (ORAC) to all other fruits and vegetables, even when the comparison is controlled for moisture content. And it is certainly far superior to spray dried Acai, which loses most of its antioxidant activity in the process.
- This brings us to one of the most puzzling findings of Acai. We know that freeze-dried Acai is found to have an extraordinarily high Total ORAC capacity. Researchers assumed that this score meant that Acai probably had the highest content of the compounds (namely, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and other polyphenolic compounds) that contribute to its antioxidant activity as a food. But to everyones surprise, freeze dried Acai turns out to have much lower levels of these compounds than are found in blueberries, or in other berries with elevated ORAC values.
- To make matters even more puzzling, consider the following information: The total phenolics in Acai were found to be only 13.9 mg/g Gallic Acid Equivalents (GAE). In a recent paper, the ratio between hydrophilic ORAC and total phenolics was found to vary dramatically, from less than two to more than 100, for different groups of foods.
For most fruits and vegetables, this ratio is about 10. However, the ratio found in Acai is 50, five times greater than the ratio found in any other fruit. This “unusual” ratio raises questions about whether Acai contains much stronger antioxidants than are found in other berries, on an equal weight basis. Work is already underway, to determine why Acai has antioxidants that seem to be so much more powerful than those in any other fruit.back to menu ↑
Acai: The Highest Antioxidant Capacity of Any Fruit or Vegetable
Free radicals are reactive unpaired electrons (called oxidants) that can have acute or chronic adverse effects on normal physiological function. This negative effect is referred to as oxidative stress. The main role of antioxidants is to interact with excessive free radical activity, and mop up or quench these free radicals so they are rendered harmless.
- The ORAC assay test is one way to determine if a food, such as the Acai berry, has this antioxidant potential. Assays performed in a lab setting measured this products strong activity against radical and non-radical oxidants: the peroxyl, superoxide, and hydroxyl radicals, peroxynitrite, and singlet oxygen.
There is a problem when the damaging effects of free radicals against pathogens or cancer cells are not properly managed. When that situation occurs, these same free radicals can cause oxidative damage to healthy cells as a by-product of their natural function in keeping us healthy.
- Oxidative stress is really a name for this adverse effect of oxidants on a physiological function. This stress has been implicated in the progression of aging and disease. The evidence is mounting from studies worldwide, demonstrating that this stress can be reduced by antioxidants.
The USDA has used the ORAC assay to test all of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States for their antioxidant activity. The USDA reported that wild blueberries and cranberries had the highest average ORAC value of any of the food tested. Cranberries were highest, with a total (hydrophilic and lipophilic) ORAC score of 95.
- Now imagine this – tested freeze-dried Acai fruit pulp has a total ORAC value of up to 1,027, over ten times higher than the highest ORAC scores for any food at the time!
Essentially, this result makes Acai the bright star among other well-known antioxidants, including blueberries, grapes, red wine, green tea, cranberries, blackberries, pomegranates, orange juice, and any of the exotic fruits from Asia, such as mangosteen, noni, or wolfberry.
To ensure that the results obtained for the Acai berry are accurate, and not forged, numerous samples have been tested over several years. Still, the outcome from each assay consistently shows that the Acai berry has the highest antioxidant activity based on the ORAC assay, of any food in the American diet. Not reliant on just the ORAC assay, a continuation of its antioxidant capacity has been confirmed by the FRAP and TEAC assays as well.