The Mysteries Of The Acai Berry

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acai berry


Acai berry, pronounced [ah-SIGH-ee] is probably one of the most highly disputed fruits of the current day. Let's take a deeper dive into this amazing little fruit and find out exactly where it came from, some possible health benefits, and a few ways to incorporate this fruit into your diet.

What is it?

Acai berry is a small reddish, purple fruit, resembling a stretched out grape. These berries are found on the Brazilian wild palmberry tree, native to Central and South America. There have been numerous studies done on the health benefits of these berries, but a majority of them have been focused on the antioxidant activity which could help prevent certain diseases.

History

Acai has been around for thousands of years, but was not introduced to the western world until the mid 1990's. First used by the tribes of the Amazon jungle as a cure for various ailments, acai berries soon made a home in the Americas. It didn't take long for westerners to believe in the tremendous health properties credited to this tasty fruit.

Where Does it Come From?

The acai berries can be found on a palm tree with a long thin trunk. The berries would be grouped in clusters that look like little blue bottles hanging in between ribbon-like leaves. Traditionally, the acai berries would have to be picked by hand. The tribe's men would shimmy up the tree and cut the branches from the top of a palm tree laden with acai berries. The harvest would then be brought back to the women of the village to pluck and prepare.

Health Benefits

The health benefits are where most of the debate on acai is concerned. Some studies show there are no greater health benefits from eating acai berries than similar fruits, berries, and vegetables. However, other studies claim to prove the antioxidant levels are much higher. Even if acai berries are only on an equal footing with other fresh produce in providing a defense against free radicals, they would be worth considering when eating a healthy diet.

Acai contains powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins and flavonoids. These two antioxidants help defend the body against life's stressors. They also play a role in defending the body against free radicals. Free radicals are harmful byproducts either introduced to the body as toxins from the outside environment or produced by the body from the remnants of processed foods and other internal pollutants. By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.

Fun Fact

Anthocyanin is Greek for 'blue flower.' These antioxidants are what give the acai berries and juice the reddish, purple, and blue hues. Many fruits which contain these deep, rich pigments, like blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries, are extremely high in antioxidant properties.

How to Eat

Acai berries can be consumed in a number of different ways. Some people prefer them raw as acai na tigela - literally translated as 'acai in a bowl'. Others prefer to drink the sweet juice, sometimes as part of a smoothie. Straight up, acai juice is similar to drinking grape juice.

Acai berries are a great addition to salads, especially when combined with slivers of toasted almonds and crumbles of soft goat cheese. Due to the natural pH of the juice, acai is also great at tenderizing meat and makes an excellent marinade for beef and lamb. Another trend emerging from the acai world is wine made from the berries. The list will grow as more and more people find out about this fabulous super food.

No matter how you get your acai fix, you will enjoy the new flavor profile on your palate and the added antioxidants in your diet won't hurt either. So pick up some frozen berries or a bottle of juice and make this fun-to-pronounce berry a part of your daily diet.

 

Acai Berry Recipes

 

Berry-Nice Acai Berry Cupcakes

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup skim milk
1½ cups acai berry pulp

Turn oven on to 350 degrees.
Line muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
Put butter and sugar in mixing bowl, and with hand or stationary mixer, mix on medium-high speed until creamed together and fluffy.
Add eggs to bowl with mixer running and beat until incorporated well, and then turn off mixer.
In a sifter or sieve, sift the cake flour and baking powder together into a separate bowl.
With mixer running, slowly add the flour-baking powder mix to the creamed mixture in bowl.
Continue mixer running and slowly pour in milk, continuing to let mixer run until everything is combined; turn off mixer.
With a rubber spatula or spoon, fold the acai berry pulp into the mixture, using up-and-over movements, until combined well.
Spoon mixture into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cupcake paper about ? full.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until just starting to get golden around the edges and toothpick comes out dry when inserted into center.

 

Blue-Razzy Acai Berry Slushie

1 cup blueberries
½ cup raspberries
½ cup low fat yogurt
½ cup skim milk
¼ cup acai berry juice
1 tsp wheat germ or flaxseed
1 cup ice cubes

Put all slushie ingredients in blender, and then with blender on high speed, start adding ice cubes until desired consistency.  Serve immediately in tall, chilled glasses.  This is a nutritious and delicious breakfast, lunch, or pick-me-up drink.

 

Acai Berry Crepes

Ingredients for Filling:
1 cup Acai berry pulp
1 cup softened cream cheese
¾ cup sugar

Ingredients for Crepe:
1 cup flour
½ cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter
4 eggs
½ cup water
½ tsp salt

Whip the softened cream cheese and sugar.
Add Acai berry pulp and continue whipping until smooth.
Place filling aside.
Mix all crepe ingredients in to blender jar and blend about 1 minute.
Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
Heat crepe pan and lightly grease with butter.
Measure about ¼ cup batter into pan, tilt pan to spread batter.
Once crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen any edges with spatula.
Flip crepe over to cook the opposite side.
Slide crepe from pan to plate for serving
Spread some of the filling then roll to the desired size and shape.

 

Acai Berry Smoothie

4 oz Acai Juice
1 Banana
½ cup Orange Juice
½ to 1 cup Ice

Combine in blender. Pulse blender to break up ice and blend for an additional 15 to 30 seconds.

 

Mango & Avocado Salad with Acai Berry Vinaigrette

½ cup V8 V-Fusion Acai Mixed Berry Juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
? teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and sliced
½ medium avocado, seeded, pitted and sliced

Beat the juice, oil, vinegar, water, mustard, garlic and black pepper in a medium bowl with a whisk or a fork.
Divide the lettuce among 4 salad bowls. Top with the mango and avocado slices. Spoon vinaigrette over each salad.