What it is:
Açaí (pronounced AH-sigh-EE) Berry is the fruit of the Açaí Palm (Euterpe oleracea) also known as the Cabbage Palm. Açaí is indigenous to the northern part of South America and is a staple of the traditional Brazilian diet where Açaí berry is typically eaten raw and as a juice or breakfast food.
Açaí juice contains about 2.4% protein and 5.9% lipids (Del-Pozo-Inzfran 2004). The fruit pulp powder contains about 4% protein and 12% lipids. The lipids consist primarily of the monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) oleic acid, followed by the saturated fatty acid palmitic acid and the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) linoleic acid. Other nutrients include calcium, Vitamin A, phosphorus, iron and thiamin – minerals and vitamins found in most fruits (Schauss 2006).
Açaí berry contains several anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and other flavonoids. The anthocyanins give the ripe fruit its purple color and ta very high antioxidant capacity, higher than cranberry, blackberry, strawberry or blueberry. A large portion of the anthocyanins are largely bound to insoluble fiber of the pulp. Products that include fruit pulp, as opposed to clear filtered juice, will provide higher amounts of antioxidants (Mertens-Talcott 2008).
What it Does:
Açaí products have been touted for many uses including skin rejuvenation, cancer prevention, cardio-protection, enhancement of the immune and digestive systems, as well as improved sex drive. One laboratory study found that Açaí berries destroyed leukemia cells (Del-Pozo-Inzfran 2006) and a product made from Açaí fruit powder and skin powder inhibited cyclooxygenase-1(cox-1) and COX-2 enzymes in the laboratory, suggesting anti-inflammatory use (Schauss 2006).
Marketing: Fueled by media coverage as a “super fruit” (one having high antioxidant capacity) there has been a rapid rise in demand for Açaí in the U.S. and around the world. In fact, total sales grew 85.8% in 2009 to $70 million, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Spinscan reported 121% additional growth in sales during 2010 in the health and natural food stores.