Acai Berries and Nutrition
If you’re actively concerned with achieving optimum health and in staying healthy, you’d probably already noticed, even before finding and reading these pages, that Acai berries are being promoted in the media and on the Internet as a Superfood – as great nutrition.
But why should you make Acai berries an important part of your diet?
The most important thing to know about Acai berries is that they are chock-a-block full of antioxidants – molecules that may help to slow down or even prevent certain features of aging.
Those Vital Antioxidants
To put it simply, antioxidants help to control the number of free radicals within your body.
A certain number of free radicals is always present in a healthy body – they help to break down toxins and fight disease.
But when the body contains too many free radicals, this can lead to imbalance and therefore stress that can become noticeable, even in the fittest athlete.
Where do these extra free radicals originate?
Excess free radicals can be picked up by the body from everyday sources. Ultra-violet rays from the sun; industrial fumes and waste; car exhaust; cigarette smoke; X-rays and gamma rays from minute amounts of radioactive material undetectable without scientific equipment.
Amazingly, it has been calculated that your body receives an average of 10,000 free radical hits a day. Trying to avoid them is impossible. The only action you can take to protect yourself is to introduce a rich supply of antioxidants into your body to help clean up the excess.
The Benefits of Antioxidants
Enjoying an antioxidant-rich diet may help our bodies cope with the unnatural hazards of living in the 21st century.
Studies have indicated that antioxidant-rich diets may lower the risks of heart disease, as well as those of some neurological conditions. Studies are currently being conducted into examining the role of antioxidants in lessening macular degeneration of the eyes and rebuilding weakened immune systems.
Sportsmen and their trainers are in the forefront when it comes to accepting new discoveries that may assist in increasing performance and aid and hasten recovery from injury. They have been quick to embrace the use of antioxidants to help regenerate the body after heavy training or exercise. When exercising, muscle ache may indicate heightened oxidant (free radical) production due to increased oxygen consumption. The use of anti-oxidant-rich foods helps the body to recuperate more quickly after strenuous exercise.
We’ve already looked at how antioxidant levels are measured – you can find the information here: ORAC and Antioxidants
Fresh Acai has been found to be the Superfood highest in antioxidant activity, with a score of 5,500 ORAC units. Freeze-dried Acai (the best source for Acai products away from the Amazon), has a score of 35,000 units per 100 grams.
Extra Benefits of Acai
Many antioxidant-rich foods also contain vitamins E and C, as well as carotene. Essential minerals such as copper, zinc, selenium and manganese – all vital for a healthily functioning body – are normally present.
Acai Berries and Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins are the flavonoid pigments responsible for the vibrant colours of fruits and flowers.
These pigments act as a sunscreen for plants. They may also be a signal to attract animals and birds to let them know that the fruit is delicious, and thus spread the seeds. In Acai berries, anthocyanins also carry their own set of antioxidant properties.
Other than Acai, foods containing high levels of anthocyanins include blackcurrants, aubergines, red cabbage, oranges, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, redcurrants and red grapes.
In all of those fruits, the bright colouring of reds, blues, purples, and oranges are caused by the amount of flavonoid pigments or anthocyaunins they contain.
Foods that contain a low amount of anthocyanins include potatoes, pears, fennel, peas, bananas, and asparagus.
Interestingly, Mother Nature herself may have provided us with a visual indicator of antioxidant-rich foods. It has been found that the brighter and more colourful the natural food, the higher the levels of antioxidants. Orange, red, purple and blue foods have the highest levels. Just look at the colour of those Acai berries!
Anthocyanins and Good Health
Scientific studies have discovered that anthocyanins have their own special health benefits.
Foods high in anthocyanins may help protect against cancers, diabetes, bacterial infections, inflammations and neurological diseases, as well as lessening or slowing down the aging process.