What’s açaí berry?
It’s hard to turn a corner without running into a product or advertisement touting the amazing benefits of the açaí berry. Pronounced ah-sigh-ee, the berry itself has been around thousands of years and is consumed largely in the Amazon. This powerful berry finally made its way to the Western world in the 1990s. Today, you can find açaí berry in everything including soda, juice, granola and even chocolate. Along with the consumption of these scrumptious foods, is the promise of certain health benefits.
Those that make the ranks as the most popular are:
• improved cardiovascular health
• youthful skin
• better libido
• increased energy levels
• lower cholesterol
The benefits are truly there in this fruit as a whole but mostly in its most unprocessed form. While foods that contain the açaí berry may well be delicious, the fruits most powerful form is in the pulp. Harvested from the açaí palm, a tree that grows 30 to 40 feet tall, the purple berry is filled with a large seed and is about the size of a grape. The pulp is then carefully extracted and sold. Because the berry does not stay fresh for very long, the pulp (and sometimes the berry itself ) is frozen or freeze-dried before selling. That said, it’s a good idea for consumers to remember that processed versions of foods containing açaí may not live up to the nutritional standards you (or your body) expects.
Using the açaí berry from its frozen, freeze-dried or pulp forms in recipes, however, is becoming more popular than its processed counterpart. So what can you make with these delicious unprocessed açaí products? The most popular way to add the pulp or puree is simply by blending it into a smoothie with your favorite fruit. You can find the pulp or puree at your local grocery and health foods store in the frozen food aisle. More often than not, the berry is sold in portioned packages.
Açaí Berries and Your Health
The fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, which is important to the body for a number of reasons. Oleic acid helps omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane, and taken in combination, they help make cell membranes more supple. By keeping the cell membrane supple, neurotransmitter and insulin receptors function more efficiently. Researchers say this is important because elevated insulin levels create inflammation, which can cause aging. Açaí is one of the “10
Superfoods,” according to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD, FACN, a board-certified clinical and research dermatologist (well known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and for his bestselling anti-aging cosmeceuticals). Dr. Perricone believes that adding the “10 Superfoods” to your diet will give you extraordinary health. For more information on his “10 Superfoods,” visit http://www.perriconemd.com
Açaí pulp contains:
• A high concentration of antioxidants that help combat premature aging, with at least 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine.
• A combination of monounsaturated (beneficial) fats, dietary fiber and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health.
• A nearly perfect essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, which combined are vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration.
Protein-Packed Banana Açaí Smoothie
1 package of AÇaÍ pure - sambazon frozen
½ cup frozen blueberries
½ cup low-fat organic yogurt
1 cup low-fat organic milk
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
Simply combine ingredients into a blender and mix. All ingredients are available at most grocery stores or online at http://www.sambazon.com Easil.y enjoyed as a healthy breakfast or mid-day snack!
Serves 1. Enjoy!
By Traci Danielson Mitchell, Founder DM Nutrition & Fitness