Thursday, 16 July 2009

Health benefits of acai

Health benefits of acai

Have you heard about the acai berry craze? The health fad surrounding the acai berry has caught on faster than you can say Oprah. What is the acai berry and why has it become so popular?

The acai berry is grown and harvested in the Amazon Rainforests of Brazil. The acai berry has become a very economically valuable commodity for the Caboclo region which locally harvests the acai berry.

Acai harvests come twice a year, where thousands of these small, round grapelike seeds are extracted from the plant. Local farmers harvest acai berries by climbing far up into the tall palm-like trees to pick them. Acai must be quickly processed into a pulp or juice, due to the fact that it has a very short shelf life of 24 hours.

Acai can also be quickly freeze-dried into a powder form, called opti-acai. This powder can then be utilized in many different ways, and within many different types of dietary supplements.

Benefits of the acai berry are many. Most of the research which has been conducted on acai, has centered around this freeze dried version.

Acai contains a substantial amount of fiber, which may help you to feel full when you are hungry. This is one reason why acai is being marketed as a weight loss substance. Tablets, juices and instant drink powders containing acai have flooded the market.

Another important component of acai is its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants help the body fight off free radicals, which contribute to premature aging and disease.

Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a well-known and respected opinion in the field of healthy skin research, made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show and wholeheartedly gave a thumbs up to the effectiveness of the acai berry to improve general health and skin tone. Dr. Perricone claims the acai berry to be the "number one superfood in the world." He goes on to say that the acai berry has the "best overall nutritional value of any fruit on earth." This appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show caused a spike in the demand for dietary supplements which contain acai extract.

In determining the effectiveness of this claim, it is important to examine all of the proven nutritional evidence about the acai berry.

Nutritional Information per 100 grams of acai extract:

533.9 calories, 52.2 grams of carbohydrate, 8.1 grams of protein, 32 grams of fat,

44.2 grams of fiber, 260 mg. of calcium, 4.4 mg. of iron, and 1002 units of Vitamin A.

Noting the high calorie, carbohydrate and fat content,

one might wonder how this could be effective for dieting purposes.

Perhaps a better reason to try acai is due to its unique combination of powerful antioxidants.

Acai contains a combination of 12 flavonoid like compounds. Included in this list is a small amount of resvertarol, which has recently become a popular buzzword in the field of anti-aging studies.

Acai has shown promising results in fighting specific types of damaging free radicals. To note a specifically promising study, chemically-extracted polyphenol-rich amounts of acai were actually shown to reduce the development of experimental leukemia cells in vitro.

While acai does show many promising possibilities, many marketers of acai products have made grand claims about the effectiveness of acai as an overall health tonic.

Makers claim that acai contains ingredients which can do all of the following:

Assist the body in detoxification

Improve digestion

Increase energy levels

Improve skin appearance

Improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels

Improve sexual performance

Acai is most commonly marked as a weight-loss product. However, studies to prove this are ongoing and it is yet to be determined if acai is truly effective in helping to shed extra pounds.

What is clear and scientifically proven is that a diet which is high in antioxidant content is recommended in the prevention of disease and in supporting overall health. Since acai has been shown to contain significant amounts of antioxidants, one might conclude that consuming acai is one effective way to help support a preventative lifestyle.

How does the antioxidant content in acai measure up against other fruits?

Some studies show that acai fruit pulp has more antioxidant content than cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries. However, studies conducted by the Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice Company show that their pomegranate juice contains a higher concentration of essential antioxidants over acai.

Now that you know why acai is good for you, let's take a look at who is benefiting from the popularity of this newly discovered treasure.

The main market town in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon has dedicated a specific area dedicated to the sale of acai berries. Over 100 vendors sell around 200,000 kg. of acai berry per day! If this type of demand continues, natives may choose to substantially increase business by planting more acai palm trees.

This

is excellent news when considering the importance of saving the Amazon Rainforests of Brazil. Instead of cutting down trees, there is talk of planting more? This is a promising scenario. It has been reported that one particular Amazon Rainforest project is considering the planting of 5 BILLION acai trees in the next ten years.

The fad-like popularity of the acai berry is certainly blessing the economy of the Brazilian market.

Who else benefits from this trend?

As many people around the world are always looking for the latest, greatest and easiest way to lose weight, companies who manufacture products which contain acai are certainly experiencing financial benefits as well.

Is this financial abundance shared with the consumer? Not quite. Pills and potions containing acai are not exactly cheap. Even a small container of acai juice purchased at your local grocery store will not be cheap. Looking online for acai juice at brazilbotanicals.com, a 32-oz. container of acai juice costs a pricey $18.95.

Nevertheless, because the hype surrounding the acai berry is at such high levels, people will still pay this price. Is acai worth the money? You decide. What is clear about acai is that the continued harvesting of it will be a blessing to the people of Brazil, and to their local rainforest conservation efforts. This may be reason enough to try acai for yourself!

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