A small, dark-purple berry from Central and South America called the acai (pronounced â€˜a-sigh-eeâ€™) has joined the elite ranks of energy and immune system super-foods, offering twice the antioxidant power of the much-heralded blueberry and ten times as much as grapes. Acai berries are the most popular new ingredient for health-enhancing juices, desserts, shakes and smoothies, and a variety of anti-aging supplements.
Fruits and berries — especially berries — are the best sources of antioxidants among all classes of foods. A healthy anti-aging diet depends on nutrients from a variety of food sources, and the berry family should not be overlooked. Berries of all kinds are available year-round across the country. When theyâ€™re locally out of season, the imports can be more expensive but are worth the price if you can afford them. A major study of the antioxidant content of fruits and vegetables in 2004 found that berries are the clear antioxidant economic winner too, offering more antioxidant bang for the buck than all other fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are molecular-level compounds that help repair and prevent cell and DNA damage from the stress of oxidation — important to us because oxidative stress increases as we get older, and is a crucial factor in degenerative age-related diseases such as arthritis and cancer, and conditions like high LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. The vital role antioxidants play in good anti-aging diets has led to the development of numerous antioxidant anti-aging supplements, and the newest and most popular contain the therapeutic factors found in acai berries.
Acai berries are also an amazingly good source of dietary fiber if the whole berry is used rather than just the juice. A recent study using freeze-dried acai fruit pulp-and-skin powder found nearly one-third of its mass to be an excellent source dietary fiber. A 100-gram serving of acai powder provides all the recommended fiber needs (20 to 30 grams per day) for the average adult.
In Brazil, the benefits of the acai are nothing new. Itâ€™s been cultivated for centuries, and is considered a great energizer. Tourists soon learn from the locals how to enjoy the advantages of acai shakes and sodas, desserts and snacks — often served with granola — and even acai berry ice cream. The recent craze for acai berry products in North America reached a high point recently when Jamba Juice outlets began offering acai berry smoothies to meet the many requests from its customers for this healthy little berry.
If you canâ€™t find the acai berry in its natural form, you can still gain its superior antioxidant and energizing qualities by taking acai berry supplements, widely available as liquids, pills and capsules, and even as a powder, providing the acaiâ€™s high-quality dietary fiber. Truly, this unassuming little berry from the jungles of South and Central America is a powerful new antioxidant addition to our anti-aging diet.