Native tribes along the Amazon River have been consuming Acai berries for thousands of years. In certain regions in South America, the fruit is revered in an almost holy way for its purported health benefits. It is sworn to cure everything from cramps to tumors.
Over the past decade, Acai has taken the western world by storm. It is now found in drinks, vitamins, and even ice cream. The fruit itself looks very similar to a grape, is a deep purple or greenish color, but differs tremendously in taste and texture.
In parts of the Brazilian Amazon, the fruit constitutes as much as forty percent of the locals’ diet. Indeed, the tree itself (and the enormous seed that constitutes 80% of the fruit) have their own special uses for the indigenous population, making the Acai tree to the Amazonians what the Buffalo was to the Native Americans.
Acai Nutritional Information
Per 100 grams (pulp and skin), Acai contains approximately 530 calories, 52g of carbs, 8g protein, and 32g fat. 44g of those carbohydrates is dietary fiber. Commercially, Acai is sold as a drink, frozen extract, pulp, fruit mixture, dietary supplement, and even in items not intended for consumption such as cosmetics (everything from body lotions to make up).
As any popular item, the fruit has also made it into a number of commercial Liquors and other alcoholic beverages. Contrary to some reports, it is just an extract and not intended to have any sort of health benefit).
While the Acai berry indeed has some interesting antioxidant capabilities, many of the absurd claims made about its health effects to date are largely unfounded. These claims include the ability to reverse diabetes and other chronicle illnesses, the ability to increase penis size, and providing a “threefold increase in sexual virility”.
As the ingredient and, consequently, the products utilizing it, are relatively new to the American market, the FDA has yet to fully evaluate it and the multitude of claims associated with it.
What we definitively know about the fruit so far is that it is extremely high in fiber, low in sugar, and a good all around good source of protein, fats, and carbohydrates with little unnecessary or extraneous mass (indeed, it sustains whole populations throughout the Amazon).
As for any new product around which the science is cloudy, it is very little surprise that it is immediately being hailed as a miracle cure all. However, merely because it cannot reverse terminal illnesses or stop the aging process (two conclusions that have been confidently drawn from empirical evidence) does not mean that it has no health benefits.
The Acai berry is to North American flora what a Martian visitor would be to Earth. It is unlike any other fruit in composition and origin, and it will take some time before its definitive health benefits can be deduced completely. The consumer should act as a skeptic to any panacea like reports while maintaining a healthy excitement for the future of this curious little berry.