One of the most delicious members of the superfood squad — a.k.a. the cool kids of the food pyramid — is a fruit you've probably seen all over your Instagram feed. Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is best known for being the not-so-secret ingredient in picture-perfect smoothie bowls, but there's more to these berries than just their good looks.
Superfood Qualities of Açaí
What is açaí, anyway? Found on açaí palm trees in South American rainforests, açaí berries are a lot like grapes. The seed takes up about 80% of the berry, but the flesh and skin pack plenty of vitamins and other nutrients in the remaining 20%. Not to mention the berries are only about 70 calories a cup.
- Antioxidants: Like other berries, açaí are packed with antioxidants that can help build up your immune system and protect your cells against damage from free radicals.
- Fiber: Full of fiber, açaí berries not only help make your trips to the bathroom more regular, but also help keep you full and .
- Heart-Healthy Fats: It might seem like a diet rich in fish, nuts, and avocados is the only way to get enough omega-3 fatty acids, but açaí berries are also a great source. Eating lots of these heart-healthy fats can and improve your cholesterol.
- Calcium: High in calcium, açaí berries will help keep your .
Health Claims of Açaí
Do these berries live up to their nickname "purple gold"? They are powerful, but don't depend on them to help fix your health ailments by themselves.
"Although lots of people eat these berries — amongst other foods — for their 'magical powers,' you're not going to find magic in one food," says , author of . "The magic comes from a diet that contains a variety of foods that work in concert with each other."
- Heart Disease: There's no proof with açaí berries specifically, but eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables overall can .
- Cancer: Produce-filled diets can also help lower the risk of most cancers, according to the , but research hasn't been done on açaí specifically.
- Weight Loss: Munching on lots of fruit and vegetables — including açaí berries — as well as exercising regularly can help you lose weight.
- Arthritis: All berries contain anthocyanins that have been found to have an anti-inflammatory effect that can help ease the symptoms, says the .
- High Cholesterol: Eating more fiber from fruit (e.g., açaí), vegetables, beans, and other sources can .
- Anti-Aging: It's still true: A healthy diet full of fruit, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats can help with everything from acne to aging.
Where to Find Açaí
Because açaí berries can spoil within a day, the best ways to buy them are frozen (like) or in . Try out some of the açaí-flavored treats below: