Acai (commonly pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is considered to be one of nature's most complete and healthy foods. It's scientific name is Euterpe oleracea and it is a little round berry, dark purple in colour, with a large seed and not much pulp. The taste is like a mixture of berries and chocolate. Research has shown that this small berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world!
Where Does Acai Come From?
The Acai berry comes from a type of palm tree with a long thin trunk up to 25m high with leaves that hang like ribbons from a group of branches at the top. The berries hang in large clusters of several hundred berries from these branches, and most Acai palm trees produce about 20 kg of fruit per year. The Acai berry palm trees flourish in the lush rainforests in South America that are fed by the mighty Amazon River. Acai has been used by the natives of Brazil for many generations and we now know it has an astonishing array of health benefits.
The History of Acai
The rainforest Acai berry became known to the western world in the 1990's, but it has been around for thousands of years. The Acai berry was first used as a cure for various ailments by the tribes of the Amazon jungle. It has been a traditional food of the native people of the Amazon for hundreds of years and is also part of their folklore. According to legends there was once an Amazon Indian girl named Iaca, whose father was the tribal chief. His tribe had grown large and there wasn't enough food to go around. Because of the food shortage the chief decreed that all newborn babies must be killed. When his daughter Iaca gave birth, the chief had his decree carried out and Iaca mourned the death of her baby alone in her hut for days. When she heard a baby crying she went outside to search for the baby , but instead she saw a palm tree shooting up from the earth, covered in fruit. Sad and disappointed, she lay beneath the new tree and died. The next day, the tribe found her body under the new tree and the tree's fruit satisfied the hunger of the tribe and renewed their energy. The chief then lifted his harsh decree, declaring that the fruit would be named after his daughter ("Acai" is "Iaca" spelled backwards). Acai has been enjoyed by the people of Brazil for decades, and a bowl of Acai is often eaten in the morning with breakfast.
Some Amazonian tribes have medicine men or women who are known as healers and have worked with medicinal plants from the rainforest for centuries, as through tradition, they know the Acai Brazilian berry has medicinal purposes. We now know the Acai berry has natural antioxidant properties, as well as naturally controlling cholesterol. Eating Acai assists by reducing the bad cholesterol in our blood and increasing the good cholesterol. The Amazon tribes knew the benefits Acai berry gave, as it helped build the immune system, fight infection, protect the heart, and control prostate enlargement (nature's viagra). It was a great source of energy for the native people, and the berries were traditionally pulped into a type of wine that was rich in minerals. The Acai berry was also found to fight the disease schistosomiasis, which is transmitted by snails in tropical areas and affects more than 10 million Brazilians. For hundreds of years the incredibly useful Acai berry was only known to the traditional tribes people of the Amazon.
So what about it's recent history? After being introduced into the western world it was recognised by the modern Brazilian surfer as a natural way to regain energy. The Acai berry has a short shelf life so it was pulped and frozen for freshness and became a great natural additive in smoothies which are often drunk along the beaches of Brazil and soon became a drink for the trendy.
Word of the berry spread, and researchers soon realised that it would have great importance for the well-being and health of the western world. The western world is tending to obesity with diets often over filled with fat and fast food, and Acai can help with problems that stem from this diet. Acai is naturally energy-giving, it has a vibrant taste of berries with a hint of chocolate, is rich in amino acids, fibre, vitamin E, minerals and essential Omega oils to reduce bad cholesterol caused by our western diets. The Acai berries fatty acid ratio is similar to that of olive oil which has been recognised as a contributing factor to the low heart disease rate in Mediterranean populations.
Known as the miracle fruit, Acai berries has more antioxidants than blueberries or pomegranites, and some recent studies indicate that Acai may even fight cancer cells.
The berries perish very quickly so only the juice and pulp is exported from the Amazon. It has been introduced into various products like bars, cereals, muffins and health snacks to be sold at gyms and health spas. It's long history with the tribespeople of the Amazon is important and it's traditional use to boost energy for hunting and boost libido has lead to Acai berry juice becoming a very beneficial and commercially viable product.
In recent history it has been endorsed by talk show hosts including Oprah Winfrey, where it was seen as a feature on her show, and has been written about in many magazines. So now is the time to seek out the benefits of the Acai antioxidant berry for yourself.
You may also enjoy reading about the health benefits of Acai.