The acai berry - acai berries are a "chocolaty blueberry" from Brazil - will add pep, zip and energy to your life, lungs and skin... if you believe the "superfruit" hype currently being peddled in the health and beauty hotspots of the fashionistas.
Superfruits are an outgrowth of the superfoods phenomenon that has catapulted salmon, spinach, and walnuts into prominence among those following the food-for-better health trend.
That trend is hot because most well-heeled people crave a sharper memory, want to age well, boost energy levels and significantly cut the risk for disease.
With the addition of blueberries to that list, the health and wellness industry went on a frenzied hunt and unearthed cranberries, pomegranates, the acai berry, noni, goji and mangosteen to add to the superfruit barrow.
And acai fruit is the new darling of the health and wellness industry. How do you pronounce acai? It's pronounced ah-SAH-ee. You'll usually see it as acai juice.
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, an expert in nutrition and anti-inflammatory diet, calls the acai fruit the world's No. 1 superfood in his best-seller "The Perricone Promise".
Like pomegranate, which created a juggernaut several years ago, and the goji berry, acai is a rich source of antioxidants.
Acai now can be found in a number of drinks and smoothies, sorbets and nutritional supplements. But it also recently has jumped from the supermarket aisles to the beauty counters with new products that tap the berry's supposed powers.
The potential health benefit of superfruits focuses on the antioxidant content.
Antioxidants include vitamin C and E but also the naturally occurring plant chemicals in the fruit called phytochemicals (phyto meaning plant). These antioxidants destroy free radicals, the unstable oxygen molecules formed during normal body processes.
Free radicals, if left unchecked, can damage healthy cells and potentially cause health problems such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and inflammation.
But here's the rub. Are they really disease busters or are they just alternatives to orange juice that are nutritious and expensive?
The industry claims that the berry is one of nature's most perfect energy fruits. The berry's pulp is rich in antioxidants (more than blueberries and pomegranates), healthy omega fats, dietary fiber, protein and amino acid complex vital to muscle regeneration. Antioxidants are responsible for the prevention of cellular damage which can lead to cancer and heart disease.
In addition to the supposed health benefits, the beauty industry also sees enormous scope. Acai is being added to skin care, hair care and makeup products. BORBA has several skin treatments containing acai, Fresh will launch an age-delaying body cream loaded with acai in January, the cosmetics company Tarte put acai in a line of lip gloss, and HC Color uses acai in its hair conditioner.
But as Dr Susan Mitchell says: "Just because a superfruit has a high antioxidant content, does this mean it automatically translates into a health benefit in the human body? The only way to know for sure is to conduct nutrition research and test whether these antioxidants can destroy free radicals in humans and whether this cell destruction lowers the risk of disease and helps versus hinders something like inflammation.
"Pomegranate, mangosteen juice and acai berries are all superfruits in that they are good sources of antioxidants and can be part of a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. To date, research on the benefits in humans has not been conducted or else is very limited to back up the myriad of promises you’ll find associated with these products. They can be very expensive costing up to $70-80 a bottle and are not miracle cures as often promised. Always do a reality check when a product promises to treat/cure all types of diseases.
Not Amen. Acai berry.