Açai berries are more exotic than your common blueberry and more expensive than prize-winning raspberries. But do they deserve their fame and price?
All About Açai Berries
Açai “berries” are the fruit an açaí palm tree that grows throughout much of Central America and northern South America. Açai berries aren’t even berries at all because they have a pit. They’re technically called drupes, but with a name like that, we’ll stick to calling them berries.
You’ll usually see açai berries dried into powder or frozen. Why? Due to their high fat content, açai berries go rancid within a day of being picked. This means it is not possible for freshly picked açai berries to be exported to the US (and other countries) because they would go bad before they ever reached our fruit markets.
Why So Expensive?
The simple answer is they aren’t…if you live in Central or South America. Freeze-drying and transport costs make them expensive in North America. Also, about 90 percent of the açai berry is a seed. It’s a tiny portion of the whole berry (well, drupe, remember?) that you’re consuming.
Açai Berries for Weight Loss
Let’s get this out of the way. Açai berries aren’t particularly useful for weight loss. They have just been marketed that way for years, and the idea stuck. You’ll see wild claims from açai berry products. They can make those claims because natural products don’t have to abide by the same rules as drugs, which has certainly spurred some açai berry naysayers.
Not So Fast
Açai berries aren’t any better than most other berries for weight loss, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t full of healthy nutrients. They are good for you; they just aren’t a weight-loss panacea.
Açai berries contain polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants. In particular, açai berries are high in anthocyanin. That’s the stuff that makes fruit and berries colorful, but more importantly, it’s also a potent antioxidant.
Açai berries are also high in Omega-9 fatty acids. These aren’t essential fatty acids, though they do have anti-inflammatory benefits. Açai berries contain fiber, calcium, and iron, too.
The Verdict on Açai Berries
Açai is a healthy food with a distinctly earthy, chocolate-like taste. (Good for smoothies and açaí bowls!). That being said, they probably aren’t worth spending a lot of money on. Other berries such as wild blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and cranberries contain as many healthy nutrients as açai.
So yes, that açai bowl you love is still healthy, just don’t forget the other local, cheap berries that are even healthier for your wallet.