There are two types of people in this world. Those that love acai, and those that have never tried it.
For some reason, most of us in the UK fall into the second category.
But if ever you visit the Copacabana in Brazil, you’ll find locals selling smoothie bowls with fresh blended acai. Speak to any surfer in Bali, and they’ll tell you how they swear by Acai to boost their energy when they’re out on the water. Take a trip to Los Angeles, New York or Brisbane, and you’ll be inundated with health cafes selling acai bowls topped with fresh fruit and granola.
So what gives? What is it that makes Acai so special? And more importantly, why aren’t we getting more of the purple stuff in our own lives?
Here’s everything you need to know about Acai, one of my favourite fruits on the planet.
What is acai?
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a deep purple berry native to the Amazon rainforest. For indigenous tribes, the origin story of the Amazon says that the entire rainforest was born from a single seed of acai!
The acai palm tree originally grew wild in the rainforest, but it's rise in popularity has seen local farmers start to cultivate the fruit. To this day, acai can only be found in the Amazon as it is the only climate on the planet that provides the right conditions for it to grow.
Each acai berry contains just 10% fruit pulp with a very large seed in the middle, making the fruit harvest very laborious and expensive. Especially when you consider that the fruits must be harvested by hand!
Acai berries are also extremely perishable; and must be consumed, frozen or dried within 24 hours of harvest. The very best acai powders are freeze dried in order to retain maximum nutritional value (more on that later).
The difficulty in harvesting the fruit, coupled with the rarity of the fruit itself is what contributes to the high price of Acai. That said, you really do get what you pay for!
The health benefits
Acai has long been considered a 'miracle berry' by tribes native to the Amazon rainforest.
And with good reason too. Acai is one of the most nutritionally complete fruits on the planet, and is loaded with vitamins A, C and E along with iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
Unusually for a fruit, acai has a high fat content and virtually zero sugar. These fats come in the form of omegas 3, 6 and 9, which are essential fatty acids that are amazing for health, brain and skin health.
But the most magical thing of all about acai are the antioxidants it contains. One of these antioxidants are anthocyanins, which give it the deep purple colour, and have been shown to be extremely beneficial for heart1 and brain function2.
In fact, Acai has a higher ORAC rating than any other fruit on the planet, meaning it contains the most amount of antioxidants by weight.
Antioxidants help to prevent cellular damage on a day to day basis. Every day our cells are exposed to trillions of free radicals, and we must consume antioxidants to reverse the damage they cause. Antioxidants literally slow the aging process on a cellular level - hence why the world's longest living populations all consume high antioxidant diets.
These antioxidants are the exact reason we have included acai in our brand new flavour PERFORM. Antioxidants help to clear up the free radical damage caused by exercise, helping you to recover faster after a tough workout.
Plus, the healthy omegas found in acai also help to reduce inflammation, which can contribute to muscle soreness and joint pain. These are especially beneficial after training, to help reduce any lingering soreness that often follows the next day.
A myth about acai
I’m not sure how it started, but you may have noticed supplement companies trying to push acai as a weight loss ingredient in overpriced diet pills. Don't believe the hype.
There are no specific compounds in acai that act as a miracle cure to weight loss. There is no credible research to suggest that acai consumption will help you lose weight.
There is tons of research to suggest that acai can seriously improve your overall health. But it’s not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle that consists of plenty of fruits and vegetables and regular exercise. So, if you think you can lose weight by sitting on the sofa all day popping acai pills, you’re sadly mistaken.
I think acai can make an amazing addition to just about any diet due to the exceptional health benefits that it offers. Use it to improve your energy, boost your immune system, get glowing skin, or increase your overall vitality. Don’t use it as a weight loss aide.
What to look for in acai
Not all acai is created equal! As word spreads about this super berry, big brands have been cutting corners to get it to their customers at the cheapest possible price. This is bad news for the farmers, the environment, and also your health.
In order to get the benefits of acai, it MUST be freeze dried to protect the delicate nutrients it contains. The omega oils in acai are very volatile, and exposure to heat can turn them rancid very quickly. Not only does this taste gross, but it's also no good for your health!
It is also exceptionally important to buy fair trade acai. We all know about the problems faced by the Amazon rainforest, but providing farmers with a fair wage helps to make acai growing much more sustainable. Fair trade acai means more palms planted to support reforestation and more money into the local economy!
Finally, you should always look for certified organic acai. Not only does this mean no pesticides, but certified organic acai also guarantees that the berries are harvested by hand. Non organic acai is often machine harvested which is extremely damaging to the environment and often leaves the palms unable to bear fruit again.
My favourite thing of all about acai is the taste! The flavour is often likened to a cross between blueberries, red wine and dark chocolate. Which I think you'll agree is a pretty epic combination.
With summer now here, acai makes an amazing addition to your PERFORM protein shakes. Or, if you're after something even cooler, try blending a scoop with some frozen bananas for an instant soft serve protein berry ice cream!
However you use it, acai is a great new addition to PERFORM and is an awesome way to power up your diet with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy omegas. Get in the mix!