Acai berry is a little, round, dark purple fruit obtained from acai palm tree. Botanically, acai belongs to palm or Arecaceae family of tall trees in the genus Euterpe and known as Euterpe Oleracea.
Acai palm is a tall, slender tree, which grows 15 to 25 m in height. The average mature plant has 3-10 well-developed stems (10-18 cm in diameter) from a single seed and root system. It grows better under waterlogged low-lying plains receiving good annual rainfall. Each stem behaves like individual tree and bears 3-5 bunches with each bunch holding about hundreds of berries in a way similar to areca palm or coconut palm.
Each acai berry measures about the size of small sized grape, 2-3 cm in diameter. They appear dark-green initially, later turn to deep-purple color on attaining maturity. Technically, the fruit is a drupe which consists of outer-edible pulp surrounding a central large seed. Only the pulp part, comprising about just 10-15% of berry weight, is edible.
Health benefits of acai berry
- Acai berry has very good levels of anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have health benefiting and disease preventing properties.
- Unlike other berries and fruits, acai has high caloric values and fats. 100 g of berries provide about 80-250 calories depending up on the preparation and serving methods. In fact, fresh acai berry has been the staple nutritious diet of native Amazonian for centuries. There is no solid research evidence suggesting the use of these berries will help lose weight.
- Acai berry contains many polyphenolic anthocyanin compounds like resveratrol, cyanidin-3-galactoside, ferulic acid, delphinidin, petunidin as well as astringent pro-anthocyanidin tannins like epicatechin, protocatechuic acid and ellagic acid. Scientific studies suggest that these compounds have been claimed to act as anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer functions by virtue of their anti-free radical fighting actions. In addition, tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.
- Primary research studies suggest that ellagic acid in acai has anti-proliferative properties by virtue of its ability to directly inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens (nitrosamine toxins in the food).
- Acai berry is also rich in medium chain fatty acids like oleic acid (omega-9) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These compounds help reduce LDL-cholesterol level and raise good HDL-cholesterol levels in the body and thus help prevent heart disease. In addition, the essential fats help prevent skin dryness by maintaining adequate moisture in the skin.
- Acai pulp has good levels of dietary fiber. Adequate fiber in the diet helps clear cholesterol through the stools.
- ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of acai berry is thought to be at mid-level range for fruits, higher than that of oranges but less than pomegranate. USDA so far not validated exact ORAC value of acai.
- Acai berries contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Further, they are rich in B-complex vitamins and vitamin-K. Contain very good amounts of niacin, vitamin B-6 and riboflavin. These vitamins are function as co-factors and help body in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
- Acai extracts have been used by Amazon basin tribes as the treatment remedy for diarrhea, parasitic infections, hemorrhages, and ulcer treatment.
- A kind of decoction obtained from crushed seeds has been used in the treatment of fever.
- Decoction obtained from the roots has been used in the treatment of menstrual pain, liver diseases, malaria in Peruvian culture.