Essential Guide to Açaí
An Introduction to the Popular Superfood
If you’re wondering where you’ve heard of açaí before, you may have seen beautiful smoothie bowls using the ingredient popping up on your Instagram feed.
And you might also be wondering how you pronounce it. It’s not a-kay, as you might expect,
but as-sigh-ee, with the emphasis on the last syllable. The word comes from the Tupian word ïwaca’i, meaning ‘fruit that cries’ (one that expels water).
Açaí berries are harvested from palm trees in the rainforests of South and Central America.
Due to their incredible health properties, the berries have been used by indigenous tribes for thousands of years in medicine and food, and in recent decades, the rest of the world has caught
on. You’ll regularly find the açaí berry on lists of the best superfoods.
So what’s so great about it? Some studies show that açaí fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries.
Antioxidants help to fight free radicals, which can damage cells in our bodies, making us more prone to disease. The antioxidants found in açaí berries, anthocyanins, have been linked to lower blood pressure, easing arthritis symptoms, and heart health.
What does it taste like?
The açaí berry is often described as having arich, grainy flavour, with many people saying that there’s a chocolate-y after taste. It’s not a sweet berry, but has a slightly tart taste to it.
Outside of the areas in which the berry grows, it can be difficult to find the berries whole and fresh.
Due to their high natural degradation, açaí berries have to be freeze dried within 24 hours to ensure their nutritional value is kept intact.
Açaí powder is much more common in the UK; most of the nutritional benefits are retained and the powder is versatile enough to use in juices, smoothies, and smoothie bowls, and on cereals. It can even just be mixed into a glass of water. Make sure that you’re getting as much nutritional benefit as possible by ensuring the powder you’re using is 100 per cent pure açaí, and not topped up with any additional fillers.
Food bloggers and instagrammers are always looking for the next food trend, and after smashed avocado on toast had reached its peak, it was time for smoothie bowls to take their turn in the spotlight. Search for ‘smoothie bowl’ on Instagram, and you’ll find over 1.5 million photos.
The base of a smoothie bowl is similar to the smoothie you’re used to sipping through a straw, but is thicker in consistency, and is then topped with a variety of artfully placed toppings that can range from a few berries or chopped bananas to chia seeds, coconut flakes and hemp seeds.
Many smoothie bowls will include açaí: a couple of spoonfuls of açaí powder, or frozen
purée, blended together with the fruit of your choice, make up the base, giving you all those
nutritional benefits. Depending on how creative you’re feeling, add your toppings and away you
go. Don’t forget to take a snap for Instagram to add to that ever-growing hashtag…
As with many other superfoods, some of the claims around açaí have to be carefully considered. They have been claimed to have superior weight-loss benefits, leading many to believe that supplements will help suppress appetite and aid with dieting. Experts warn against expecting any one food to provide a solution to weight loss, and instead advise a varied diet full of nutritious foods, and an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise.
Açaí is also available in supplement form, though consuming açaí in this way won’t give the same benefits as the fresh fruit.