Superfood Favorites: 5 Health Benefits of Acai Berries + 5 Recipes

08/15/2019 Nutrition and Recipes Nutrition Healthy Eating Recipes

If summer is the time for superheroes, why not also make it the time for superfoods? Enter acai berries! Small and purple, these sweet berries are rich in antioxidants in addition to many other plusses.

acaiberries

Acai berries are a small purple berry with a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Have you tried them before? You’ll commonly see them in pureed preparations like smoothies or acai bowls, but they can also be found in a powder form. Acai berries taste similar to a blackberry but a little sweeter and less tart. They’re a staple food in the Amazon region where they grow on acai palm trees, but these small berries have become more popular around the world in recent years. And for good reason! Acai berries are only about 1 inch in diameter but are loaded with health benefits. It’s a plus that they taste good too! They are a true superfood.

If you’re curious about these supposed acai health benefits in your diet, below are five different ways that acai berries can be beneficial for your health.

1. Antioxidant Power

Just like all the other berries and their antioxidant power, the health benefits of acai are no different. Antioxidant-rich foods are so important for your health because they are responsible for minimizing the damage that free radicals do to the body. Without antioxidants working against free radicals, free radicals can cause numerous problems like diabetes and cancer. Acai berries have high levels of antioxidants—even more than blueberries! You know this by its ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score, which is a measure of a food’s antioxidant power. The higher the ORAC value, the greater the food’s antioxidant capacity. Acai berries have an ORAC score of 102,700 per 100 grams compared to blueberries that only have an ORAC score of 9,621 per 100 grams. That’s a whopping difference!

In a study done comparing acai berry pulp, acai berry juice, and applesauce, the participants who were given acai pulp had the highest increase in antioxidants. Not only does this study prove that eating acai berries increases antioxidant levels, but it also shows that acai berry pulp is more powerful than acai berry juice. Overall, it’s obvious that acai berries contain high levels of antioxidant power!

2. Packed with Nutrients

Isn’t it amazing how nature puts medicine inside food? That a berry can grow on a tree and contain vital nutrients that your body needs for survival? But what are these nutrients?

Per 100 grams of acai puree, you get:

  • 5 g fat
  • 3 g fiber
  • 40 mg calcium
  • 25 mg sodium

The most important part about the nutrients that acai berries contain are the anthocyanins—the part of the plant that makes acai berries that deep purple color. That deep color is how you know they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.

3. Lowers Cholesterol

While human studies with acai are minimal, the effects of anthocyanins have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. In this study, when humans were supplemented with anthocyanins, there were positive effects on both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. Since acai berries are loaded with anthocyanins, it’s safe to say that they also help with cholesterol levels, protecting against cardiovascular disease!

In animal studies, acai was proven to improve lipid profiles and overall cholesterol numbers. With the effects of anthocyanins proven in studies and the effect that acai had on rats in animal studies, it is possible that acai will also be confirmed to be beneficial to humans as a healthy way to manage cholesterol levels.

4. Anti-Cancer Properties

Acai berries are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals. Free radicals in the body can be a precursor to cancer. So acai berries with all their antioxidants can naturally fight against cancer development from free radicals. That’s pretty cool, right? Only animal studies have been done for this, but they have shown some promising results. Acai proved to protect against colon cancer and also bladder cancer in mice. While animal studies can’t take the place of human studies it’s an indicator that with further experimentation, acai may be shown to be a powerful anti-cancer food for humans as well.

5. Brain Power

Acai berries = brain power. These small purple berries boost brain function. Acai berries have plant compounds known as polyphenols that have shown in animal research to protect the brain from damage as it ages. And once again, the antioxidants in acai berries are beneficial not only for the body but for the brain as well. They fight against oxidative stress in the brain caused by free radicals. Over time, these free radicals have negative effects on long-term memory. When the memory is affected it can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This study shows that in mice, acai was helpful for counteracting the damaging effects that free radicals have on the brain. Acai has also been shown to help “clean up” toxins in the brain. The fewer toxins in the brain, the better it will function overall and prevent a potential memory disease, so start eating up that acai for brain health!

Now that you know acai berry benefits, it’s time to work the acai berry into our food regimen! Below are some easy recipes that you can make using both frozen acai berries and acai powder. Frozen acai packets can be found in your grocery store’s freezer section with the frozen fruit and acai powder can be found in health food stores or online. When purchasing frozen acai packets, be sure to read the ingredients. Some packets contain a lot of added sugar. Sambazon makes a great unsweetened acai puree packet as well as Trader Joe’s! If you are buying the powder form, Navita’s Organic makes a wonderful product, making it easy for you to enjoy the health benefits of acai.

Tropical Acai Bowl

This recipe is so easy to prepare and it will pack a punch of energy, too! It’s sweet, tangy, and smooth in texture. Acai bowls are a fun way to enjoy all the health benefits of the powerful acai berry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets frozen acai or 2 tablespoons acai berry powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey

Topping ideas:

  • Chopped almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Sliced banana
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Shredded coconut
  • Cacao nibs
  • Grain-free granola
  • Chopped dates
  • Diced kiwi
  • Raw honey

Directions:

In a blender, combine the frozen acai, pineapple, coconut milk, banana, and honey. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. It should be thick!

Once the acai mixture is blended, pour it into a bowl and add your favorite toppings! Eat immediately and enjoy every bite!

Serves 1

Almond Butter Acai Bowl

There’s something magical that happens when you combine almond butter and acai berries. It’s like a PB&J in a bowl! This is slightly different from the recipe above because it has smooth and creamy almond butter in it which gives it a nutty and decadent flavor. You’ll love this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets frozen acai or 2 tablespoons acai berry powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/4 banana
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey

Topping ideas:

  • Chopped almonds
  • Blueberries
  • Sliced banana
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Goji berries
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Shredded coconut
  • Cacao nibs
  • Grain-free granola
  • Chopped dates
  • Diced kiwi
  • Raw honey

Directions:

Add the acai, frozen strawberries, almond milk, almond butter, banana, and honey to a blender. Blend until smooth.

The mixture should be creamy and thick. Pour into a bowl and top with whatever toppings you like!

Serves 1

Chocolate Acai Smoothie

Acai and chocolate are a match made in heaven. It tastes so decadent you won’t even believe you’re drinking something good for you! This smoothie will have you drinking this for breakfast and dessert! It’s that good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 packet frozen acai or1 tablespoon acai berry powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • Dash of cinnamon

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend on high until smooth. Drink up and enjoy!

Serves 1

Acai Berry Overnight Oats

This recipe uses acai powder, so if you don’t have any frozen acai packets in your freezer, the powder is a great option to still get the health benefits of the acai berry. This recipe can be made in advance so it’s amazing for meal prep. And it tastes amazing, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon acai berry powder

Topping ideas:

  • Chopped almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Goji berries
  • Chopped dates
  • Cinnamon

Directions:

Add the oats, almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, and acai berry powder to a bowl. Mix together until everything is incorporated.

Pour half the mixture into a mason jar and the other half into a second mason jar. Put the jars in the fridge overnight and the next morning they will be ready to eat.

Once you’re ready to eat, top with whatever toppings you enjoy, then eat up!

Serves 2

Chopped Salad with Sweet Acai Dressing

Think of a strawberry vinaigrette or a raspberry vinaigrette—berries make yummy salad dressings! And the acai berry is no different. It’s sweet and tangy and the perfect dressing for this big green salad.

Ingredients—Salad:

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Ingredients—Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons acai berry powder
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey

Directions:

Add all your salad ingredients to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the salad ingredients.

Pour the dressing over your salad and mix well until everything is coated with the dressing. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Between the health benefits and all the different ways to consume them, acai berries are a powerful fruit to be added to any diet. As mentioned, you can find them in frozen packets in your store’s freezer section or in powder form. Whatever way you choose to consume it, you’ll experience the benefits of acai berries! Your body will thank you. These small berries are a superfood through and through.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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About the Author

Lauren Venosta

Clinical Nutritionist & Personal Chef
Lauren Venosta is a Clinical Nutritionist & Personal Chef based in the Bay Area, CA. She runs her practice, total body nourishment , where she helps motivated men and women to regain their energy and feel great in their body. Practicing a food-as-medicine approach, she helps her clients utilize the healing powers of food to nourish their bodies. With nutrition counseling and custom meal plans, her clients experience results that last for the long-term. No crash dieting or feeling deprived, her programs focus on building healthy lifestyle habits and incorporating whole foods. She works with clients all over the country via online...Read more