Can a berry really reduce your chance of developing cancer and other diseases? Amanda Ursel find out
Sorry to pour cold water on your discovery but none of the health claims you mention for this small purple berry can, at the moment, be substantiated by clinical research.
Amazon Indians in Brazil who harvest the berries from the acai palm tree and eat the pulp and drink the juice soon after, probably get quite big nutritional benefits from the vitamin C and purple antioxidant pigments that the berries are said to contain because they consume them fresh, regularly and in sizeable amounts.
A few small studies have shown a short-term increase in antioxidant capacity after a single serving of acai juice or pulp blood, but whether this means that the antioxidants go on to prevent diseases, improve our skin and so on is, as with many fruit and vegetables, simply unknown as yet. How much antioxidant goodness you can derive from what is often a token amount of the processed acai juice added to a smoothie is debatable, although you will certainly pay a premium for this exotic-sounding ingredient.
It is worth remembering that even if you find a pure acai juice in a health store, slurping down, say, 300ml bottles when the maximum recommended amount of any juice we should be drinking for the day is a 160ml glass (just over the volume in a small yoghurt pot) is not advisable since big servings of juices and smoothies add unnecessary liquid calories to our diets.
Probably the best advice I can give you is that unless you can source the frozen acai berry pulp that can be used in drinks or on top of your breakfast cereal, you should step back and look at our more readily available "super foods".
All citrus fruits from oranges to grapefruit give us lots of vitamin C, which is generally needed for a strong immune system and a healthy response to stress, as do peppers and green leafy vegetables. Although potatoes do not provide as much gramme for gramme, they too are vitamin C providers in our diets.
Meanwhile, similar kinds of beautiful purple-coloured antioxidants pigments in acai berries can be found in everything from a bag of mixed frozen berries containing blackcurrants and blackberries which you can buy in most supermarkets (and in season, fresh ones too) to red onions, aubergines and red cabbage.
Admittedly, red cabbage does not sound half as glamorous, but it does the trick, giving us these so-called anthocyanidins that research suggests may help to maintain the strength of the walls in tiny blood vessels around our bodies, which in turn may just help to lessen the appearance of tiny spider veins under our skin and ruptured vessels in our eyes.
I am not rejecting acai berries out of hand, but as with other unusual-sounding super foods such as goji berries imported from China, it is good to view them with a sense of perspective and to understand that there could be good substitutes far closer to home.
Acai berries are said to contain plant stanols that work in a similar way to the plant stanols and sterols that are added to products such as Benecol and Flora
ProActive, grabbing cholesterol in the digestive system and lowering overall cholesterol levels in our blood.