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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

There are a lot of claims around this little berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), so what’s the truth behind the hype? We take a look at the benefits of acai

 

What is it?

A dark purple berry, similar in size to a blueberry. You won’t find fresh acai, though – the fruit grows in Central and South America and has to be freeze-dried within 24 hours because its nutritional value deteriorates quickly. It’s usually then blitzed to a powder, or you can buy it in frozen form.

Make:  Vegan acai smoothie bowl

How is it used?

In powdered form, it’s easy to add to a variety of dishes for a nutritional kick. Sprinkle on porridge and cereal or mix into homemade bars and bakes. The vivid colour makes it a popular addition to juices and smoothies. Acai ‘capsules’ have been marketed as a weight-loss aid – but there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim.

Nutrition

While some research suggests that the pulp from acai berries has a very high antioxidant capacity (more powerful than cranberries, strawberries or even blueberries), the studies are ongoing and there’s much still to be learned. ‘In test tubes, antioxidants seem to protect cells from the kind of damage that may lead on to diseases, including some cancers,’ says nutrition editor Amanda Ursell. ‘However, claims that acai berries and their juice can hold back ageing or prevent cancer have not been verified by the European Food Safety Authority, so we definitely can’t bestow such powers on them yet.’

Although the fruit is safe to eat, some people may experience allergic reactions. If you want to take it in supplement form, check with your GP first, especially if taking medications for high cholesterol or diabetes, or if you have kidney disease. It’s also important to let your doctor know if you are due to have an MRI scan, as large doses may affect the results.

From the shop to your table

Innocent Pomegranate Magic smoothie with blueberries & acai £1.79/250ml bottle, Asda, Waitrose

innocent acai drink

Nutritional info per bottle: 155kcal, 0g fat, 0g saturates, 33g sugars, 0g salt

Blackcurrant & Acai Berry Tea Bags

89p/20 bags, Holland & Barrett 

blackcurrant and acai tea bags

Nutritional info per bag: 0kcal, 0g fat, 0g saturates, 0g sugars, 0g salt

Naturya Organic Acai Powder

£15.00/80g, Ocado

acai powderNutritional info per 10g: 59kcal, 5.4g fat, 3.3g saturates, 0.1g sugars, 0g salt