The SparkPeople Blog

Does it Really? The Truth about Açaí

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
12/18/2008 3:15 PM   :  120 comments

We've all seen the ads.

Rachael Ray lost weight with açaí berries!

Lose 20 pounds in 2 days with açaí!

Açaí flush is the secret to weight loss.


Is it true? Does açaí, a berry native to Central and South America, hold the key to weight loss?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sounds more like a fad diet than a miracle.

What is açaí?

Açaí is a small, round berry that is about 1 inch in diameter. It resembles a grape, with one large seed, but it contains less pulp. The berry is green at first, turning a blackish-purple color when ripe.

The pulp of the berry--which tastes like a cross between raspberries and chocolate, with a slightly gritty, meaty texture--is mashed and eaten like a pudding in South America. (I liked it when I tried it, but it's an acquired taste.) The açaí berry has a relatively high fat content (it contains Omega-3's), so it spoils quickly. In North America, it's only available in freeze-dried or frozen form.

It can be found in the freezer section of many larger grocery stores and healthy food stores.

Why the hype?

In 3.5 ounces (almost 1/2 cup) of açaí:
  • 80 calories
  • 6 g fat
  • 7 g carbs
  • 1 g fiber
  • 0 g sugar
  • 2 g protein

Açaí--like all fruits and vegetables--contains antioxidants, which are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Age-related problems such as vision loss, heart disease, and cancer are linked to free radicals, and eating foods containing antioxidants may slow the progression of these age-related diseases. Antioxidants are found in all fruits and vegetables in various levels.

Açaí is touted for its high level of antioxidants, which some say is the highest of any fruit or vegetable. The exact antioxidant number or rating for a food isn't important. No government or regulatory body tracks or tests antioxidants, and in researching antioxidant levels, it was virtually impossible to find neutral, third-party research.

Açaí producers flaunt the health benefits of the berry, but even among manufacturers, the numbers vary.
According to Oprah.com (two of her favorite health experts discussed the berries on the show, jump-starting the interest): Açaí has 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 more times than the flavonoids of red wine. Her experts say it's healthy but it's not a cure-all. There have been a few scientific studies regarding the anti-inflammatory properties of açaí, but the results are inconclusive.

The celebrities and "experts" whose names are on the ads for açaí do not endorse the supplements.

So is açaí healthy? It's a fruit, so yes. Is it going to melt away your excess weight? No. If you like the taste, put some in a smoothie, try some açaí sorbet or mix it up like pudding (see photo above), Brazilian style. If you don't like it, eat other fruits instead.

An ABC News reporter and her husband tried an açaí "cleanse" and pill regimen and ended up paying for much more. Read her interesting account here.

Did you know?
Ever eat hearts of palm? Açaí comes from a type of palm tree, the tender centers of which are eaten.

Have you ever tried açaí berries? What did you think?


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Comments

  • 70
    I don't know about the weight loss stuff, I never believe anything that sounds too good to be true. Obviously there are antioxidants in fruits and veggies, and some have more than others, but why eat one that's so hard to get here, therefore more expensive? Apparently (tart) cherry juice is good too, my dad's been drinking it every day for a while now and he claims he feels great, says it helps with his random aches and pains... and hey, we grow cherries right here... But really, in a society where most people aren't getting enough fruits and veggies, most people are going to see a major change from eating more of any of them, won't they? - 12/20/2008   8:02:44 PM
  • 69
    I did my own blog on this as I did a lot of research on it after my daughter mentioned it to me. I have tried the Acai berry juice that I found - and may incorporate this into my food management just like I would any other berry but not for weight loss, but for the other health benefits... I was well aware of the benefits of this berry AND the fraudulent claims out there .... just becareful, cause if they offer it free, think again, NOTHING IS FREE.... Lindie - 12/20/2008   6:49:58 PM
  • 68
    Wouldnĺt eat, or drink anything that was ordered online. Free trial or not because there are too many scams out there and you wouldn't know what you are eating or drinking. The scam artist uses celebrity and professional names create a very believable web site and sell us anything and our government does nothing about this and we as consumers suffer the consequent. - 12/20/2008   2:35:07 PM
  • 67
    Have heard claims of what a good antioxident acai berries are. Fruits and veggies are all sorces of benificial nutrients. The article states there are no scientific studies that prove how much acai has. The best antioxident that is present in the body is glutation, the best source to increase it is MaxGXL. Researched and proven. I have been taking it for almost a year and have had excellent results. Not for weight loss, though I did loose almost 10 lbs after I started, but have lost my aches and pains that I thought I would have with on coming age. I have been eating healthy for over 3 years but have never felt as good as I do with taking the Max. Acai does taste good and is a nice change from just the everyday run of the mill fruit in your cereal. - 12/20/2008   1:33:16 PM
  • 66
    I have been drinking an acai drink called Mona Vie for the past year; I have suffered with inflammation in my right knee for the past 10 years and this drink has helped me without a doubt. I have noticed that it also helps to curb my apetite and I do have more energy when I drink it as well. My mother suffers from fibromyalgia and has also seen great results with the drink. Still, as the article states, this is not a cure all. But for someone like me who needs quick and easy fruits, this drink has been a huge part of my life for the past year! - 12/20/2008   11:58:44 AM
  • 65
    I have never eaten the berry but was curious about them, however, I don't go out of my way to buy "the latest" foods or suppliments, only because it is an extra expense. I hope I am eating healthy, and my main concern is to eat more WHOLE foods... CLEAN foods. My diet is well rounded and if per chance I have the opportunity to try the berries I would, though not too likely at this time. - 12/20/2008   11:26:54 AM
  • 64
    Thank you for posting this blog and thank you for the link to the reporter's story. I have not tried acai because I don't usually go with fads, especially ones that sound too good to be true. I am especially leary about so-called "miracle foods," "miracle healing products," and anti-ageing cures from Central and South America. My father lives in Ecuador and is into shamans and all of their "miracle products." I am quite sure that he will bring up acai next time I go to visit him. - 12/20/2008   11:00:58 AM
  • 63
    The reporter's story is well worth reading, not just because she was ripped off for hidden charges related to her "free" trial, but also because the companies were using the names of celebrities who never officially endorsed their product. One would think this would be illegal. Once again, don't believe everything you read in magazines or on the internet about miracle weight loss products. - 12/20/2008   9:29:08 AM
  • 62
    There is a pyramid scheme in my area selling an acai berry juice mixture. It sells for $50 a bottle and you have to drink it 2xs a day and of course it makes all these claims... I have never tried it and have no desire to, at least not expecting weight loss. - 12/20/2008   7:26:53 AM
  • MOMTOGIRLS
    61
    I read about acai in Eating Clean by Tosca Reno. I have had the juice few times - for the antioxidants, not as a miracle weight loss source. That is a claim I've only heard recently. The juice is quite good - I dont' drink much juice, but will pick it up as a treat. Only wish the price was less. Over $3 is steep, I think. - 12/20/2008   2:17:23 AM
  • SPINNYBOO
    60
    No, I am not going to eat them ... not enough science, too much "flavour of the month"! - 12/20/2008   1:32:30 AM
  • 59
    I was unaware of acai. I had seen a few commercials. I have decided that if it is too true to believe that it won't do what they say it will. - 12/20/2008   1:14:34 AM
  • 58
    That was very interesting & things I didn't know. - 12/19/2008   10:56:08 PM
  • 57
    As a fruit, it's delicious. Unfortunately because of all they hype, the price is outrageous. - 12/19/2008   10:07:50 PM
  • 56
    Interesting............ - 12/19/2008   9:25:08 PM
  • 55
    Rachel Ray should do herself a favor and forget about fad diets/supplements and clean up her food and make it healthier. As for Oprah, if this stuff worked she wouldn't be back over 200 lbs again. One more myth being propagated to prey on the desperation of the obese and overweight looking for a quick fix! Forget it, there is no magic pill/quick fix it takes work and committment - 12/19/2008   6:21:40 PM
  • 54
    My sister bought the acai pills, but to date, hasn't used them. I bought a healthy juice with it in there & Brazilian acai sorbet. Both were absolutely delicious. I eat natural so my acai consumption only adds to my already mostly healthy diet. As for losing/maintaining my weight, its got to be the 14 miles I run & the 10 miles I walk each week. - 12/19/2008   5:49:47 PM
  • 53
    TCAVN - I like your 3 simple concepts! - 12/19/2008   12:46:39 PM
  • 52
    I have never tried acai berries and I'm not sure if I am going to seek them out the next time I'm out food shopping. - 12/19/2008   12:43:17 PM
  • 51
    I put frozen organic wild blueberries on my cereal every morning. I mean every. I am a little fashed by the "Organic Wild" designation, if they are wild berries how could they be anything but organic? They con't charge extra, they are not grown in China, but right here in Canada and I don't like picking through fresh berries before my eyes are open so frozen is actually better for breakfast. If I found frozen Acacia berries after reading this I would definitely try them. I love chocolate, I love raspberry and I am very fond of grainy type foods. ie I put a tablespoon of Chia seed in my cereal (with the blueberries) and also in my afternoon yoghurt and I eat sprouted grain bread whenever I can find it. So given those types of preferences it sounds like I would really like these berries. - 12/19/2008   12:28:55 PM
  • VENACAVA
    50
    I'm not inclined to believe the weight loss hype, but in LA we've been eating ašai for the last decade. It's delish. But.. it's just food, word. - 12/19/2008   12:22:54 PM
  • 49
    I'm not a person who listens to or tries the fad diets out there........I did when I was young and gullible though........but the old adage "If it sounds too good to be true it usually is" is so accurate! Besides.........look at the Oprah roller coaster......hmmmm, I think she needs to "discover" SparkPeople and common sense....as do many others, not just Oprah. - 12/19/2008   11:57:36 AM
  • 48
    Why do people continue to fall for these types of ads? "If it sounds too good to be true..." - 12/19/2008   11:48:27 AM
  • 47
    Thanks! Pat - 12/19/2008   10:42:52 AM
  • 46
    Good to know! - 12/19/2008   10:18:31 AM
  • 45
    It's never good to put too much faith in one food. Yes, I'm sure it is healthy for you to eat, but there's no way it's going to be a cure-all. You will always needs other foods to balance it out. - 12/19/2008   10:13:29 AM
  • 44
    i like it - 12/19/2008   10:12:29 AM
  • MILLIE.COPELAND
    43
    I sometimes drink an acai juice or smoothie, not for any claims of weightloss but for the antioxidants. I like the taste, but I could see how it would be an acquired taste for some. - 12/19/2008   9:52:59 AM
  • 42
    I don't know about it helping on lossing weight but I love the taste of the berries in foods and drinks. - 12/19/2008   9:46:12 AM
  • 41
    Never tried that, probably never will.

    Three simple concepts guide my efforts:
    1. It took awhile to gain it, it will take a while to loose it.
    2. Basic diet principle: Increase output, decrease intake.
    3. Fruits, vegatables, water, sleep, and exercise - 12/19/2008   9:44:29 AM
  • 40
    I've tried it, not because of the fad...but it was a fruit that I hadn't heard about before. It's tasty, but it JUST a fruit. No miracles, no super fast weight loss. I'll keep eating it just like I keep getting bananas and apples. - 12/19/2008   9:43:37 AM
  • 39
    I just ignore all those adds. It's always a red flag when something says you can lose weight practically overnight without proper diet and exercise. I know firsthand that you can't lose weight and stay healthy without doing it the right way, over a long period of time through changing your habits. You didn't gain it overnight and you're not going to lose it over night. It takes a lot of commitment and hard work. If you're not willing to make that sacrifice, then you are not going to lose it...no matter what gimmick or fad diet you try. - 12/19/2008   9:28:35 AM
  • 38
    The so-called miracle that is supposed to come as weight-loss-in-pill-form is what messed me up to this day. My mom put me on "diet" pills from the doctor in 1970, when I was 15. 2-30mg caps of DEXADRINE (yeah that stuff) a day ! Sure I lost weight...but it was by amphetamines and not the right way! I did diet pills until doctors would no longer give them to me, and then I did street speed. All this went on till last Dec. I finally said enough! I quit smoking, gained weight right away (I was already 25 or more lbs overweight) then once the thought of a cigarette was enough to make me sick, I restructured my eating, began working out and have lost what I gained from quitting cigs. The rest will be harder, I know, but the results have been amazing now that I've set my mind to it, I think I can achieve my goal of 30 more lbs. in the next year. - 12/19/2008   9:08:58 AM
  • 37
    I eat a lot of different fruits. I believe that nothing by itself is a miracle. A little bit of lots of different things is best. So variety is the answer. Do not rely on one source for nutrients. - 12/19/2008   9:03:45 AM
  • 36
    If I could get it fresh I'd try it. I love tasting new and different foods. But I'm not going out of my way for it and I'm definitely not interested in a pill. I love fruits and eat a lot...I mean, a LOT of fruit. So I suspect I'm getting my antioxidants. - 12/19/2008   8:49:06 AM
  • 35
    I like the flavor of them so occasionally I'll get a premade juice from the grocery store. Never looked for them in the frozen section. I'll try that. As for weight loss, sounds like a scam to me. - 12/19/2008   8:46:46 AM
  • 34
    I have not heard of the berryis, I disregard all adds for pills as a way of weight lost. I would consider looking for the berry's - 12/19/2008   8:40:34 AM
  • 33
    Can't even remember where I saw the ad but I thought I just had to try it. I actually bought a bottle of the pill form. The more I kept thinking about putting something in my body that hasn't been endorsed by the FDA I marched right back to the store and returned it for a refund. There is not such thing as a miracle pill. So in answer to the question...no I have not tried it but came close. - 12/19/2008   7:42:36 AM
  • CRICKETRO
    32
    no, i haven't tried. i haven't even looked for it in the store; btw: coffee has more antioxidants than ANY fruit ... - 12/19/2008   6:58:23 AM
  • 31
    When we lived in Brazil, we used to make a drink made from acai berries, milk and sugar. The fruit is highly regarded there as a medicinal food, but was never used as a" lose weight" product. There it is known for it's antioxident properties and they have done some testing on it's ability to destroy cancer cells. I believe it to have healthful properties, but not everything is intended to be a weight-loss miracle. For that to happen, we need to make to effort to do the right things. - 12/19/2008   5:06:44 AM
  • 30
    I lose weight the natural way... eat the right foods and exercise . - 12/19/2008   3:13:07 AM
  • 29
    Yes, I take 2 Acai gel pills per day, that I get at the Health Food Store here. They are not that expensive. I have known of people spending $140 per month on a certain brand of Acai Juice and they think it does wonders for them. That is their choice. - 12/19/2008   2:41:32 AM
  • SHERI1969
    28
    I get TONS of acia diet spam in my email. I have even created a spam filter for them and they STILL get in there. I don't follow anything that is called a "diet." I stick with Lifestyles. I also don't think celebrities should endorse ANY diet or food etc., because it makes it highly misleading. - 12/19/2008   12:46:38 AM
  • 27
    What? - 12/18/2008   11:35:22 PM
  • 26
    I eat fruit of all sorts in season and frozen. I will try it that way once the prices drop, for variety. - 12/18/2008   10:41:57 PM
  • 25
    thanks for this blog. I KNEW that was too good to be true. I ALMOST signed up but I am cheap and didn't want to pay for it, not even shipping. I am not into fads, I have done that and the weight comes back. Its about a lifestyle change for me! - 12/18/2008   10:03:45 PM
  • 24
    I've tried it....it didnt do anything for me. : ( I'll keep dancing cuz thats what works for me. - 12/18/2008   9:03:35 PM
  • 23
    Oh, and P.S. Yes, I've had hearts of palm and occasionally used them in salads and stir-fry's. I can buy them here in Chicago fresh in the produce section or in jars/cans in the ethnic aisles. - 12/18/2008   8:55:02 PM
  • 22
    I've purchased some products that claim to have acai in them, but not deliberately BECAUSE it said it contains acai. I knew it was a type of berry. If the fruit was available fresh here in my local grocery store I might try it, but I certainly wouldn't do it because of any claims, and DEFINITELY would not experiment with any kind of "body cleanse/detox" regimen. My Dr. is strongly opposed to herbal and unregulated products with unproven claims attached to them as well. And I do listen to her, because I see no point in paying for her medical knowledge if I'm going to turn around and do what I know she wouldn't approve of ... duh! - 12/18/2008   8:49:33 PM
  • MONY924
    21
    I drink "To Go" brands Acai energy boost - it's a powder you add to water. It tastes fantastic - gets me to drink much more water, and does give a bit of energy. However, I have not magically melted off any weight. - 12/18/2008   8:11:39 PM

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