Before the popularity of the acai berry gained notoriety we had only vitamins A, C and E consumed by drinking orange juice or taking vitamin supplements. But today, we are not talking about just small preventative measures taken, but a real blow to sickness and disease, which has taken the form of antioxidant rich functional health beverages that many consumers swear by in their quest for health and wellness.
Currently, the antioxidant gaining the most attention the Acai (pronounced ah-SAH-ee) berry which is known as a super antioxidant. The acai berry is a small dark blue fruit, similar in size to a blueberry or small grape but with less pulp, that grows in clusters of berries on acai palm trees. The acai fruit is popular among health food enthusiasts because it is high in many important vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids (such as Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9), and anthocyanin/anthocyanidin phytonutrients which are members of the flavonoid class of antioxidants.
The dark purple berry, which tastes something like a blend of berries and chocolate, supposedly contains 10 to 30 times the flavonoids contained in red wine. Traditionally, Brazilians used the fruit to treat stomach disorders and skin conditions. The fruit is highly unstable when picked and rots easily, so it is rare to find the acai fruit whole when you are not in the region where they are grown. Outside the tropics the fruit is usually found in either juice or pulp form. This wonder food is purported to fight cancer, control cholesterol, increase energy, improve physical intimacy and helps weight loss. Some people even use acai as a facial astringent because the fruit has high anti-bacterial properties.
Cupuacu (coo pwAH soo) is referred to as The Taste of the Amazon. Cupuacu is a member of the chocolate family. The indigenous Indians have used the fruit as a primary food source for years. The Cupuacu fruit grows on the Cupuacu tree, which is a small to medium tree in the Rainforest that belongs to the Cocoa family. This fruit is known for its creamy exotic tasting pulp. The pulp is used throughout Brazil and Peru to make fresh juice, ice cream, jam and tarts. The fruit ripens in the rainy months from January to April and is considered a culinary delicacy in South American cities. The seeds contain a sweet-smelling, white butter, which can also be used to make excellent-quality white chocolate.
This particular fruit, Cupuacu has not gained the national attention as the acia berry or yerbe mate. Its benefits has not been publicized nor is it contained in many health related beverages, supplements or foods. Cupuacu contains unique antioxidant phytonutrients called polyphenols. You may be familiar with polyphenols from other common medicinal plants, notably green tea and grape seeds. Cupuacu also contains at least nine other known antioxidants including Vitamin C and Vitamin A, making it a well-rounded antioxidant cocktail. The top three reasons to make Cupuacu part of your diet include: the increased ability to fight disease and cancer, more youthful and healthier looking skin and hair and it reportedly lowers cholesterol levels.
Indigenous people, as well as local communities along the Amazon, have cultivated Cupuacu as a primary food source for generations. In former times, Cupuacu seeds were traded along the Rio Negro and Upper Orinoco rivers where indigenous people drink Cupuacu juice after it has been blessed by a shaman to facilitate difficult births. The “beans” are utilized by the indigenous Tikuna people for abdominal pains.
Cupuacu also has a unique type of polyphenols called theograndins. Theograndins have potent antioxidant activity and provide cardiovascular protective and immune supportive benefits. Yet, everyday brings new findings of other advantages of theograndins that are unique to cupuacu. For example, in tests on some types of cancers, theograndins were uniquely effective at killing colon cancer cells. Research is underway to determine whether cupuacu or isolated theograndins have a place in modern cancer therapy.
Yerba mate (pronounced yer-bah mah-tay) is also one of the ingredients in this functional health beverage in addition to Aloe Vera Gel Pulp, CoEnzyme Q10, Cat’s Claw Bark and over 100 other nutritional ingredients. Although yerba mate has not enjoyed the same level of media exposure as the acai berry has recently, it certainly commands respect and attention. Yerba mate is a tea like beverage popular in Argentina. The word mate derives from the word Mati that names the gourd that is used to drink the tea.
It is widely held that this tea contains mateine, a chemical cousin of caffeine that has subtly different properties. Though similar to caffeine in its ability to provide energy, it can have a milder and safer delivery to the body. Although, yerba mate is not known to interfere with sleep cycles, it does have a tendency to balance the cycles, inducing more REM sleep. Many people report that they require less sleep when using mate; usually such an experience is accompanied by a deeper, more relaxing sleep experience.
Yerba mate is replete with antioxidants that help the body fight free-radicals. Yerba mate may assist with the following: increased mental awareness and elevated mood, weight loss, increased ability to fight off disease and increased energy and vitality.
Additionally, yerba mate helps relieve allergies. It has been noted that yerba mate is helpful in opening respiratory passages to overcome allergy symptoms. It has been shown to reduce the severity of some allergies and hay fever. Yerba mate works by stimulating the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, which help suppress the inflammation and immune response due to allergies.
Does yerba mate exhibit anti-cancer properties like green tea? Aside from its significant antioxidant effects, research from the University of Illinois suggests yerba mate could in fact be a potent ally in cancer protection. Labs around the country are starting to test the Acai to find what possible medical use it has. There is no doubt that this amazing fruit has a promising future in the medical world. While more study needs to be done to prove the effectiveness of some of these claims, there is no doubt that adding any of one of these plants or fruits to your diet will improve your overall and future health!
The health beverage industry is a booming market. It is currently producing over 4 billion dollars in sales and is forecasted to grow to over 10 billion in the next few years. The growth is being fueled by one thing: consumer demand. It should be no surprise why so many companies are jumping on the functional health beverage band wagon.
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