A decade ago, I would not have even been able to pronounce the word açai correctly… In fact, in the early 2000’s, these incredible superpower berries were not very well known out of the region where they are native to, that is to say, Central and South America.
It is mostly the weight-loss properties conferred to the açai that have made them very popular worldwide, as well as their strong antioxidant capabilities, ahead of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries or blackberries.
Besides, the açai berries have many more health benefits as some scientific studies have concluded, giving us a greater incentive in consuming them, right?
Learning about the numerous beneficial properties of the açai – which by now we know its correct pronunciation is quite close to the japanese beer brand’s – is a clear message that we should consume more of it. But how to make the best out of this inch-long berry? how to prepare delicious açai based recipes and where to find them? Keep on reading!
Açai palm trees and berries
Out of the 2,500 palm tree species that exist on the planet, is one called Euterpe oleracea, commonly known as the açai palm. It is a very tall tree as it can reach more that 25 meters tall! It grows in the northern part of South America, in Brazil, in Trinidad: in the forested wetlands.
This is the tree giving life to the açai berries, growing in clusters on the high part of the tree. The berries color is dark purple to black, and their shape is quite close the the one of grape.
Although its well-spread consumption around the world is quite recent, the açai berries have been consumed for centuries in South America, providing precious nutritional values related to boosting energy and the immune system and helping in promoting a healthy and glowing skin, prevent diarrhea, ulcers and other digestive issues.
One of the world’s highest ORAC
As it is only natural to want the best source of nutrients to feed ourselves and our loved ones, there has been some studies to evaluate the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) in food, which basically gives you an indication on how efficiently the antioxidant contained in a food will fight free radicals that are attacking us. And to give you an idea, açai berries are twice as efficient as blueberries and ten times as red grapes. That is to set the tone.
Anti-ageing & antioxidant
The açai berry taste has often been described as reminiscent of wild berries and chocolate, some of the same notes sometimes referred to when it comes to wine. Funnily enough, some researches have shown that açai berries were high in anthocyanins (such as resveratrol or ferulic acid), also present in red wine, but in even higher quantity (10 to 30 times more).
Why are antioxidants so important? Because our bodies are exposed to toxins and oxidation which produce free radicals, harmful to us and responsible in the ageing process of our cells. By introducing antioxidant-rich foods in our diets such as the açai berry, our damaged cells will most likely be destroyed before having the chance to multiply. That is why in other words, açai berries are said to reduce the proliferation of malfunctioning cells (and by up to 86% by the way).
The powerful phytochemicals contained in the açai berries are not only highly regarded in the food industry, but also in the cosmetics world. You can indeed find on the market some anti-aging creams, shampoos and conditioners using açai berries as an ingredient.
The above image and the article cover image are provided by Vitatrade Company
Back in Brasil, açai berries are popular among the surfers and the fitness crowd. They are said to up your energy level and your stamina, promote endurance, strength, and also they are praised for their energy boosting properties.
To compare them once more, açai berries contain as much vitamin C as blueberries. They are a great source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and E. Plus they are also a source of calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
Other health benefits
Açai berries will deliver a fair amount of essential fatty acids such as oleic acid, one of the same oils found in olive oil.
The fibre found in both the skin and the pulp of the fruit can aid in maintaining a good digestion and even help in alleviating constipation.
As mentioned earlier, açai berries contain resveratrol, a natural compound protecting us against oxidation. They also contain natural sterols, both known to limit our risks of cardio-vascular diseases.
The consumption of açai berries is also said to have positive effects on inflammation related diseases and health issues such as allergies, lungs irritation and respiratory issues, arthritis.
Açai is good for your creativity…
Not only because it is said to be beneficial for your brain function, but also because this purple tropical fruit seems to be a good base for SO MANY recipe creations, most of them being presented in bowls. Check @acaibowlss to get your inspiration now!
How to consume açai berries and in what form
As mentioned above, açai berries are low in sugar and also low in acid. Although that is great news for us, the little downside is that it makes the fruit very hard to preserve as both sugar and acid would have a protective role to the fruit. Without that, once picked, the açai berries will perish very quickly and if left unattended, they will oxidise in no time (that is the mystery of life, right? for a fruit with such a high antioxidant power!).
That explains why out of the Amazon, you will most probably never come across fresh açai berries as they will need to be frozen or freeze-dried almost immediately before being transported out for export.
Once frozen, they can be stored for quite a while and the antioxidant levels will remain high.
Now that we know that fresh açai berries are out of the picture (unless you are somewhere near Brazil as you read this), we are still left with several options such as açai juices, extracts, powders and frozen purée. One thing to be mindful of, is that about 80% of the açai fruit is the pit! Only 10 to 20% are left for the pulp and the skin. Some brands selling extracts are unclear on what part of the fruit is used. And since the pit (the endocarp) doesn’t hold any health benefits, be careful when you go for that option and ask for some clarifications from the supplier.
We would much rather have our attention on the frozen purée option. Why? because a good quality purée is made out of the pulp and the skin. I came across this short video by the “Breakfast criminals” going about the frozen açai purée and its greatness!
Watch it here:
Inspiring isn’t it?
Açai berries in Bangkok
I wouldn’t talk about such a great powerfood if it wasn’t available here. So rest assured that you can go as creative as your want, and get yourself some high quality organic frozen açai purée, thanks to the one and only Vitatrade and Vita Café.
For your own use at home, you can find their frozen purée sold at:
Gourmet Market, Villa Market, Baimiang, Sunshine Market, Paleo Robbie, Rim Ping, Grass BKK.
For your degustation in Bangkok healthy spots, you can find some delicious recipes using Vitatrade açai purée at:
Vita Café, Broccoli Revolution, Not just another cup, Luka Bangkok, Butter Cup, and very soon at Dressed.
Last but not least, Vitatrade also sells online, and for my dear readers, there is a special discount of 10% off for HALF CASE purchases, using this promo code:
To be used for your online purchased at http://vitatradecompany.com
Buying per half case helps you save 630 THB plus an extra 225 THB with this promotion!
Valid until 31st December 2017.
I will leave you with my super quick & easy recipe, served in a good old glass, or here in a mason jar! Using 1 packet of frozen açai purée, a handful of frozen berries, a ripe banana, an espresso cup of coconut water and a dash of coconut milk. All blended together. And… very importantly: a paper straw 🙂
“Açai (Euterpe oleracea).” Texas A&M University. 12 Jan. 2006. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
12 Health Benefits of Acai Berries by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on June 14, 2010, Last Updated on October 5, 2015
Rosso, Veridiana Vera de, et al. “Determination of Anthocyanins from Acerola ( DC.) and Açai ( Mart.) by HPLC–PDA–MS/MS.” Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 21.4 (2008): 291–299. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
Heinrich, Michael, Tasleem Dhanji, and Ivan Casselman. “Açai ( Mart.)—A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Assessment of the Species’ Health Claims.
Carvalho-Peixoto, Jacqueline, et al. “Consumption of Açai ( Euterpe Oleracea Mart.) Functional Beverage Reduces Muscle Stress and Improves Effort Tolerance in Elite Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Intervention Study.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 40.7 (2015): 725–733. Web.
Please note that the health benefits mentioned in this article are for reference only, and should never prevail nor prevent seeking medical advice.