Acai Berry (Acai Palm Fruit) Benefits – Acai is rapidly becoming famous, now known as the one of the most powerful antioxidants available in the world of vegetables and fruits. The amazing health benefits of Acai have been touted as a “Super Food” by authorities such as Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD and many others. You may have seen it described on “Oprah” and many other popular TV shows.
While Acai is relatively new to the North American USA market, but it has been consumed by millions in South America for hundreds of years, perhaps for thousands of years. Like the Mangosteen from Southeast Asia, and Noni from Polynesian Islands, the Acai berry is a hot product in today’s health food stores. It is available in many online health food stores and you may find it among the fruit juices in your local grocery store.
The juice and pulp of Acai fruits are frequently used in various beverages and smoothies. In northern Brazil, Acai is traditionally served in cuias with tapioca and some times sugar. There, people drink it rather than eating it. Acai has become some kind of fad in southern Brazil, where people consume impure Acai derivates with consistency varying from water-like to almost ice-cream like (but never the right one), often of poor quality and mixed with residues as granola and Guaran‡ syrup.
Acai fruits deteriorate rapidly after harvest, so outside its growing region it is generally only available as juice or frozen fruit pulp. The frozen fruit pulp is very deep purple and is reminiscent of a blueberry sorbet or ice cream with a hint of chocolate. It can also be eaten raw or used as a condiment, most commonly with shrimp or manioc. It is considered one of the most nutritious fruits of the Amazon, second perhaps to the Brazil Nut. The leaves of the tree are often used in weaving and basket making.
Acai Palm (IPA [asa’i] or [ah-saw-eee’) or Euterpe is a genus of 25-30 species of palms native to tropical Central and South America, from Belize south to Brazil and Peru, growing mainly in floodplains and swamps. They are tall slender attractive palms growing to 15-30 m tall, with pinnate leaves up to 3 m long. The fruit is a small, round, black-purple drupe similar in size to a grape. They are produced in branched panicles of 700-900 fruits. Its appearance is similar to that of a grape, but it has a smaller amount of pulp and a single large seed about 7Ð10 mm in diameter. The genus is named after the muse Euterpe of Greek mythology. The vernacular name is also sometimes spelled Assai Palm in English.
Acai Berry Health Benefits and Medicinal or Folk Remedy Uses
Acai are used (particularly Euterpe edulis) for their ‘palm heart’ eaten as a steamed dish, and (particularly Euterpe oleracea) for their highly-prized fruits that are rich in B vitamins, minerals (particularly iron), fibre, proteins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and anthocyanin, a member of the flavonoid class of antioxidants. The extraction of the palm’s heart (the soft inner growing tip) involves the inevitable death of the palm as its growing tip is removed, and it cannot recover.
Some species are self suckering, not single stem, and produce multiple stems, sometimes up to 40 on one plant, so harvesting palm heart is not such an environmental problem as the original stock plant can live on. Given that harvesting is still a costly and labour intensive task, palm heart dishes are regarded as a delicacy more than a staple diet – palm’s heart is sometimes called ‘Millionaire’s Salad’ due to the high price.