Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a deep purple berry produced by certain palm trees in both Central and South America. Aside from its gorgeous color, it is intensely flavorful and packs a huge punch with some of the highest antioxidant levels of any food. A National Institutes of Health study confirmed that eating acai pulp significantly increased antioxidant levels in the blood.1 Acai has even shown, in a preliminary study, that “acai fruit pulp can reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people who are overweight or obese.”2 The high fiber content of the acai berry can help you feel full when part of a fiber-rich diet. Fiber is also known to lower cholesterol, maintain good bowel health, and help control blood sugar levels. Acai also contains a good amount of Vitamin A and calcium. Vitamin A is critical for good eyesight, but also essential for cell growth throughout the body.
Why are Antioxidants Important?
Antioxidants help your body counter free radicals, which are a byproduct of cell metabolism. Through oxidation, free radicals can contribute to cell and tissue damage, and can link to to the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes. Current dietary recommendations include healthy portions of antioxidant-rich foods. One of the tastiest ways to achieve this is with an acai bowl, a combination of acai-rich smoothie base and your choice of nutritious toppings. Acai bowls are a popular trend in nutrition, and they are a mainstay at juice counters and smoothie stores everywhere. However, you don’t need to have someone else make you one. You can create flavorful, healthy acai bowls right at home!
Bowls vs. Juices
Why opt for an acai bowl instead of juice? Fruit juices tend to have more sugar per serving than the whole fruit, and acai juice does not carry the same antioxidant benefits as the pulp of the berry itself. That is likely because juices are extracted from the berry and leave some of the good stuff behind with the pulp, like fiber. While freeze-dried acai powder can be useful, you’re always better off eating whole foods and avoiding as much pre-processing as possible. In the U.S., you can buy acai as frozen pulp. Fresh acai berries are hard to find, due to the distance fresh berries must travel and how perishable they are. Frozen ones may be fresher and contain more nutrients because they are frozen soon after harvest.
So Many Choices!
Acai bowls can be made to suit anyone’s tastes, and are great for breakfast, healthy desserts, and pre- and post-workout snacks. Even better, they can be refrigerated or frozen ahead of time, which frees up much-needed time. The grab-and-go benefit is especially handy during a hectic week. You can even prepare just the smoothie base, and then add dry toppings when you’re ready to eat. Many people prefer glass jars for their acai bowls, but glass isn’t always practical. Plastic containers work just as well. Acai bowls lend themselves to customization, and you can add nutrients to yours based on whatever diet plan or food requirements you have. As acai berries are naturally gluten-free, they make a great addition to a gluten-free diet. Since you can base smoothies on alternative milk such as coconut, almond, soy, and cashew, you can adjust your acai bowl to accommodate many types of food allergies as well. There is almost an endless number of options, from heartier ones with avocado to lighter, sweeter ones with honey.
Acai Bowls for Every Occasion
For a protein-packed pre-workout snack, add a scoop of your favorite protein powder to your acai smoothie base. Include half a banana for potassium, and some kale or spinach to up the nutrition factor, then top with toasted oats and walnuts. If you prefer to snack after your workout, try blending coconut milk, a scoop of almond butter, blueberries, and pureed acai. You can up the protein content of both smoothie bases as needed by adding more protein powder, nut butter, or Greek yogurt, or even throwing in tofu. Only your imagination limits you! For a fantastic dessert bowl, try frozen acai puree, frozen banana, cocoa powder, honey, and chilled vanilla coconut milk. Add ice if needed for consistency, and you have an amazing ice cream-like treat.
With so much good nutrition packed into a tiny berry, acai is a dietary win-win. It tastes good, and it’s good for you, on top of being extremely versatile. You can’t ask for much more than that from food.