Acai | Description, Fruit, Berry, Uses, Products, & Nutrition (2024)

plant and fruit


While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style


Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.


Please select which sections you would like to print:


While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.

Select Citation Style


Thank you for your feedback

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Also known as: Euterpe oleracea, açaí, assaí, assai

Written by

Melissa Petruzzello Melissa Petruzzello is Assistant Managing Editor and covers a range of content from plants, algae, and fungi, to renewable energy and environmental engineering. She has her M.S. in Plant Biology and Conservation...

Melissa Petruzzello

Fact-checked by

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

Last Updated: Article History

acai palm

See all media

Also spelled:
açaí, assai, or assaí
Related Topics:
heart of palm

See all related content →

acai, (Euterpe oleracea), species of palm (family Arecaceae) cultivated for both its fruit and edible hearts of palm. Native to tropical South and Central America, acai palms are common along the Amazon River estuary and are cultivated on floodplains, especially in the state of Pará in Brazil. The plant has long been valued commercially for its high-quality hearts of palm, and its fruits, touted as a superfood, grew in popularity worldwide in the early 21st century.

Physical description

Acai palms consist of 4–8 slender gray-brown stems, each of which is about 25 metres (82 feet) tall and generally no greater than 20 cm (about 8 inches) in diameter. The stems bear ringlike leaf scars and are topped with a crown of 9–15 compound leaves; the leaves measure about 1.2–4 metres (4–13 feet) long. The small brown-purple flowers are either staminate (male) or pistillate (female) and are borne on large branching inflorescences that hang from the tops of the stems. The flowers are pollinated by small bees and flies and produce round drupes known as acai berries. The fruits are about 1.5 cm (0.6 inch) in diameter and feature a single large seed. They usually ripen from green to a deep purple, though the fruit of some populations remains green at maturity. Each acai stem can produce up to eight bunches of fruit a year, each bunch weighing up to 6 kg (13 pounds).

Britannica QuizFruit or Vegetable? A Quiz


Fruit and nutrition

Acai fruits have a high fat content and thus are highly perishable, usually lasting only about a day after being picked. Local peoples use the pulp of the fresh fruit in a variety of sweets and beverages, including wine, and the juice is commonly mixed with tapioca. For export, the fruit pulp is usually dried and powdered as a dietary supplement, or it is flash frozen for smoothies and juices. Acai is high in antioxidants and a number of phytochemicals, though most of the health claims about the fruit—including its value as a weight loss aid—have not been substantiated.

Palm hearts

Acai and other members of the genus Euterpe are important commercial sources of palm hearts, also known as hearts of palm, which are eaten as a vegetable. Palm hearts are harvested by removing the growing top of the palm crown; each heart consists of a whitish cylinder of tender immature leaves. Given that acai palms are multistemmed, the harvest can be done without killing the entire plant and thus is considered more sustainable than collection from single-stemmed species.

Other uses

In addition to its commercial importance, acai is also used as a medicinal plant by indigenous and local peoples, and the leaves and stems are useful for thatch and building materials.

Labour issues

Acai is difficult to cultivate, and the majority of fruit and palm heart production comes from wild plants in rural, often labyrinthine estuaries. Given that the palms are so tall and slender, the fruit is frequently harvested by children, who can ascend the plants without breaking them. Despite the risk of deadly or life-altering falls and injuries such as knife wounds or bites from venomous snakes or spiders, researchers in Brazil have noted that the use of child labour is widespread among the impoverished families who work the time-sensitive harvest. Although some acai fruit is certified fair trade, critics of the certification process say that it has done little to eradicate child labour from the industry.

Special 67% offer for students! Finish the semester strong with Britannica.

Learn More

Melissa Petruzzello

Acai | Description, Fruit, Berry, Uses, Products, & Nutrition (2024)


Acai | Description, Fruit, Berry, Uses, Products, & Nutrition? ›

Acai berries are deep purple fruits that grow from acai palm trees. These trees are native to the rainforests of South America. Research indicates that acai berries may have antioxidant, hypolipidemic, and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties may help reduce oxidative stress.

What are acai berries used for? ›

The acai fruit has long been an important food source for indigenous peoples of the Amazon region. Acai products have become popular in the United States, where they have been promoted for weight-loss and anti-aging purposes.

What is the nutritional value of acai berries? ›

Açaí puree contains 60 calories per servings, 2g of protein, 6g of carbohydrates, and 5g of fat. Most of the fat is healthy polyunsaturated fat. The berries are not a significant source of any micronutrient, according to USDA data.

What are the pros and cons of acai? ›

Known for their vibrant color, creamy texture, and versatility, acai bowls are touted as an antioxidant-rich superfood. On the other hand, the dish can be high in calories and added sugar, and some claim it might do more harm than good when it comes to your health.

Is acai actually good for you? ›

It may help stabilize blood sugar and lower blood lipids. Acai also appears to have antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. According to this same review, acai berries are often freeze-dried. They contain numerous nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fat, and fiber.

Who should not take acai? ›

If you have a history of cardiac problems, you should speak with your doctor before including acai into your diet. If you're a nursing woman, acai berry supplements can cause problems, and your baby may suffer. Acai berry supplements may induce an accumulation of toxins in the body over time.

Why is acai so expensive? ›

The cost of acai is attributed to several factors. Firstly, the berries are harvested in the Amazon rainforest, which can be a labor-intensive process. Additionally, the berries are highly perishable, requiring them to be processed (usually frozen or dried) soon after harvesting to preserve their nutrients and flavor.

Can you eat acai every day? ›

The downside? Acai bowls are sugar bombs. Eating one every day might increase your blood sugar levels or result in weight gain. They're also not great if you're on a low carb diet like keto.

Is acai good for your kidneys? ›

berries have been linked to possibly helping support heart health. Açai berries are acceptable foods for chronic kidney disease (CKD), as well as for patients on dialysis.

Can you eat acai berries raw? ›

In Brazil, Acai is often consumed in its raw form, but due to their quick degradation, this isn't the case outside of the country. Instead, they are harvested, pasteurized, and processed into Acai products, such as Acai berry powder, Acai berry juice, and frozen Acai berries, and then shipped globally.

Is acai better than blueberries? ›

Açaí berries are one of the best sources of antioxidant polyphenols and may contain as much as 10 times more antioxidants than blueberries ( 44 ). When consumed as a juice or pulp, açaí berries can increase blood antioxidant levels and reduce chemicals involved in oxidative stress ( 45 , 46 ).

Is acai an inflammatory food? ›

In vitro and in vivo studies showed that açaí possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and exerts cardioprotective, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, renoprotective, antilipidemic, antidiabetic, and antineoplastic activities.

What does acai do for your stomach? ›

Fiber is an important part of digestion. Acai berries are understood to cleanse the body's digestive system in a powerful way to keep hazardous toxins from accumulating. They work as a natural cleanser for intestine and colon to fight constipation and other digestive complications.

What is the best way to eat acai? ›

Best Ways to Eat Acai

Fresh-pressed juices that contain acai extract are another popular way to consume this superfood. Though acai's tropical, tangy flavor tends to mix best with sweet, tropical fruits like mangos and pineapples, it can be a delicious addition to a variety of different juice blends.

Is acai full of sugar? ›

Acai itself does not have sugar, but it's important to consider the additional ingredients that are commonly added to acai bowls. Many acai bowls are topped with sweeteners such as honey, agave syrup, or granola, which can significantly increase the overall sugar content.

What are 3 health benefits of acai? ›

Acai contains antioxidants which are thought to protect cells from damage. Acai berries are believed to have more antioxidant content than cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry. Chemicals in acai might also reduce swelling, lower blood sugar levels, and stimulate the immune system.

How do you eat acai berries? ›

How to Eat Acai. Two popular ways to use acai are in a smoothie or acai bowl. Both require blending frozen acai pulp or acai berry sorbet with other ingredients of your choice. You can also find acai in many supplements, in powder, tablet, or capsule form.

How often should you eat an acai berries? ›

Summary: Eating a bowl of açaí (of around 100-200 ml fruit pulp) daily is not only safe, it is healthy. Eating açaí every day is common in Brazil, even in more significant amounts. Health benefits include heart, liver, kidney, brain, cardiovascular, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Nathanael Baumbach

Last Updated:

Views: 6292

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Nathanael Baumbach

Birthday: 1998-12-02

Address: Apt. 829 751 Glover View, West Orlando, IN 22436

Phone: +901025288581

Job: Internal IT Coordinator

Hobby: Gunsmithing, Motor sports, Flying, Skiing, Hooping, Lego building, Ice skating

Introduction: My name is Nathanael Baumbach, I am a fantastic, nice, victorious, brave, healthy, cute, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.