Does it Really? The Truth about Açaí

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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 (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?