Acai is a fruit from the acai palm tree, found in South America. It’s long been part of the diet of indigenous people in the Amazonian region. Acai products have become popular due to the fruit’s “superfood” status and potent antioxidant properties, which protect cells and DNA from damage. The berries contain omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, electrolytes, B vitamins and trace minerals, making them a nutritional powerhouse and great source of energy . Acai plays a proven role in the prevention of several diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cancer. With all its benefits, it’s used as a supplement you can take in juice, powder or pill form.
1. Provides Antioxidant Support
Acai berries are a potent source of multiple antioxidants, including anthocyanins, polyphenols and vitamins A, C and E. They have 10 times the antioxidant power of red grapes and 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine . Antioxidants fight aging, including protecting cells from degeneration and damage that can lead to age-related diseases. They work by neutralizing free radicals, which are unstable molecules capable of damaging DNA and cells. In a study, researchers gave either acai pulp or juice to 12 participants who were fasting, and found that both raised levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream. This indicated that acai’s antioxidant compounds are easily assimilated regardless of the form in which acai is taken .
2. Helps Fights Cancer
The antioxidants in acai berries help target the primary causes of cancer formation, including oxidative damage and inflammation. This could mean that acai helps prevent cancer. In a study on mice with bladder cancer, acai berry pulp reduced the incidence of transitional cell carcinoma and tumor cell proliferation and DNA damage within 10 weeks. The researchers suspected that the antioxidant content of the berries were responsible for these positive effects . In another study on mice, acai inhibited the development of cancerous colon tumors, suggesting it could play a role in colon cancer prevention .
3. Improves Blood Sugar
Acai is shown to help lower risks associated with obesity and insulin resistance, including metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. In a 30-day study on 10 overweight participants, 200 grams of acai pulp taken daily was shown to lower several key markers of disease. Blood glucose levels went down, which suggested acai acts as a blood sugar stabilizer. There was also a reduction in insulin levels among participants. High insulin levels are a marker of insulin resistance, in which cells reject insulin–the hormone responsible for getting glucose out of the bloodstream and into cell mitochondria where it’s useful. There was also a drop in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which means there’s an increase in sugar being used as fuel versus being stored as fat .
4. Improves Heart Health
Antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids are both known to help lower your risk of heart disease, and acai berries are a rich source of both. Acai helps your heart by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, fighting oxidative stress and lowering inflammation. Studies have linked the anthocyanins found in acai berries to improvements in cholesterol levels . Acai also contains plant sterols, which are compounds that prevent the body from storing cholesterol. In a 12-week study on rabbits fed a cholesterol-rich diet, those given acai had less atherosclerotic plaque than a control group. Researchers attributed this result to improved cholesterol balance, and suggested acai could play a role in preventing atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries” .
5. Boosts Brain Function
By fighting inflammation, scavenging free radicals and stimulating a process known as autophagy, acai protects your brain and its functioning as you age. Oxidative stress and inflammation are associated with neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline symptoms, including reduced learning and memory recall. According to a study on mice, the anthocyanins in acai effectively reduce inflammation and oxidation in brain cells . In another study, acai improved memory in aging rats .
Another way acai promotes brain health is by promoting autophagy, which is the process by which the brain cleans up toxic or dead cells that interrupt healthy communication between brain cells. This makes way for new nerves to develop and improve neuroconnections. In test tube studies, acai extract has been shown to stimulate autophagy, suggesting it helps boost the brain’s natural method of maintaining healthy function .
6. Raises Energy Levels
Acai is shown to help boost energy and stamina, and fight exercise-induced fatigue. In a study on elite athletes, researchers administered acai juice and observed the effects it had during exercise. Compared to a placebo, acai reduced metabolic stress caused by intense exercise, lowered the athletes’ perceived level of exertion and increased the time before they felt fatigued . This suggests acai helps athletes perform better in terms of endurance and intensity level. However, acai could also be helpful for anyone exercising for weight loss, because it helps you sustain exercise longer so that you burn more calories.
7. Improves Circulation
Acai helps improve blood circulation throughout the body, which plays a role in cardiovascular health, libido and the body’s ability to eliminate toxins. A study on overweight men found that drinking an acai smoothie every day caused improved vascular function, indicating an improvement in blood flow .
Adding Acai to Your Diet
Acai supplements are considered very safe, since they come from a food source. Like other berries, acai berries are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, making them a great addition to your diet. You can find frozen acai juice or puree and use it to make nutritious smoothies. Otherwise, you can add acai powder to your smoothies or other drinks. Acai can also be found in capsule form or as a liquid extract you can easily take as a daily supplement.
Acai, a fruit native to the rainforests of South America, is a nutrient powerhouse containing plant compounds that can play a role in disease prevention. The berries of the acai palm tree contain healthy fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and are particularly rich in age-fighting antioxidants. They promote longevity and boost brain function, circulation and energy levels. Acai berries can be found in liquid, pill and powder form, and are a great supplement to add to a daily smoothie.