What Even Is Acai? Everything to Know About the Superfood (2024)

Lauren David

Lauren DavidContributor

Lauren David is a Chilean-American freelance writer. When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time in her garden where she plants diverse vegetable and herb varieties, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen or taking a walk in the forest.


published Apr 22, 2024

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What Even Is Acai? Everything to Know About the Superfood (1)

You may have seen açai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) cropping up on brunch menus and in places dedicated to serving the vibrant purple bowls topped with fresh fruit and crunchy granola. Since açai has a tart and earthy flavor profile, it pairs well with sweeter flavors like honey or maple syrup. But what exactly is açai? Here, we’ll learn more about the fruit, where to find it, and how to use it.

Quick Overview

So, What Is Açai?

Açai are plump, dark, purple-hued berries that grow on the açai palm tree, which is native to Brazil.

What Does Açai Look and Taste Like?

Açai berries are similar in size to a grape and have large seeds. After the berries are harvested, they are soaked to soften the skin, then mashed and strained to remove the seeds, creating a smooth pulp, explains Victor Vasconcellos, executive chef of Berimbau Brazilian Kitchen. “Raw açai tastes completely different from how people often experience it in sweetened bowls or with other fruit,” he says. “In its true essence, raw açai is slightly sour, fatty, and earthy.”

The açai served up in your breakfast bowl has a smooth, creamy texture. According to chef and food writer Jaíne Mackievicz, “The smell of açai is earthy and fruity, with notes of blueberry, black currant, and sometimes a hint of grape, followed by a sweetness reminiscent of dark chocolate.”

Açai Health Benefits

  • High in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals in the body. “Antioxidants are known for preventing cancer cells from reproducing and spreading in the body,” says Sylvia Klinger, RDN, founder of Hispanic Food Communications.
  • Boosts cognitive function. “The antioxidants in açai can help counteract the damaging effects of brain cell oxidation deterioration, caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits and the natural process of aging, which can negatively impact memory retention and learning ability,” Klinger says.
  • Supports cardiovascular health. “Scientific studies have shown that the high polyphenol content found in açai, such as an açai-berry juice blend, resulted in significant lipid profile changes, such as a reduction in LDL — the bad cholesterol, a reduction in triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL — the good cholesterol,” Klinger says.

Where to Find Açai

Açai berries are fragile. Since they don’t ship well, the whole berries aren’t available internationally so you’ll never find fresh ones in the produce section. Because of that, the fruit is often blended into a pulp and sold frozen, or even in powder form. When purchasing açai either in the grocery store or online, look for certifications like Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure sustainability,” Mackievicz says. “Choose brands that provide transparent sourcing information, as they support local Amazonian communities economically and culturally.”

How to Use Açai

The way açai is served in the U.S. is similar to what you’d get in Brazil. “In most parts of Brazil, açai is prepared in the form of a thick, smoothie-like bowl called “açai na tigela,” made from frozen açai berries,” Mackievicz says. She says bowls are often served with sliced bananas, strawberries, or other fresh fruit, along with granola, shredded coconut, powdered milk, and sometimes honey or sweetened condensed milk for sweetness. Açai bowls are a popular breakfast or snack in Brazil.

Frozen açai pulp can also be used in savory and sweet recipes. For sweets, it is commonly used in cakes, flans, cheesecakes, and breads, Mackievicz says. “It is also great for ice creams, semifreddos, sorbets, and other frozen desserts, especially when combined with jams and nuts.”

“As an Amazonian, I grew up enjoying açai as a savory dip for fried fish, so that’s my favorite way of preparing it,” Mackievicz says. “I combine 3 parts pure açai pulp with 2 parts water, 1 part lime juice, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt, as if I were making a vinaigrette.” Açai can also be used as a delicious dipping sauce, such as for barbecue or in a homemade ketchup, and even as a creative twist in alcoholic drinks, Mackievicz says.

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What Even Is Acai? Everything to Know About the Superfood (2024)


What Even Is Acai? Everything to Know About the Superfood? ›

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.

Is acai really a superfood? ›

Acai berries contain many antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber. Their nutritious composition makes them an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Acai berries are a Brazilian “superfruit.” They're native to the Amazon region, where they're a staple food.

What does acai do for your body? ›

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.

What are some negatives about the acai berry diet? ›

A full-fledged acai berry diet may be beneficial for some people, whereas it may cause problems in others, such as: Consuming acai berries could irritate the colon or intestinal tract, which may eventually lead to diarrhea.

Is acai actually healthy? ›

They contain numerous nutrients, including protein, heart-healthy fat, and fiber. You'll also get some vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and vitamins B1 and B6. While some claim that acai promotes weight loss, there is currently no evidence to support this.

Is it okay to eat acai everyday? ›

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.

Who should not take acai? ›

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that if you are allergic to any foods from the palm or Arecaceae family of plants, such as dates or coconuts, you should avoid acai berries. Food allergies occur when the immune system sees a specific food to be an invader and harmful to the body.

Does acai help belly fat? ›

Many sellers of health foods and supplements claim that the acai (AH-sah-EE) berry will help you lose weight. Dieters beware: these claims are false. Ads promising weight loss have been spotted on popular social networking sites and search engines. Before you give out your credit card number, read on!

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.

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.

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.

Is acai good for the gut? ›

Acai berries boost the metabolism to help gut health, bowel deportation time, and intestinal bloating. The berries are also abounding in prebiotics which are healthy fibers that assist probiotics in digestion.

Does acai help with sleep? ›

The protein, omega fatty acids, and amino acids found in acai berries can also improve sleep. These components are known for helping the brain produce dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that influence sleep.

What is the healthiest acai bowl? ›

Boost the nutritional content of your acai bowl by incorporating leafy greens. Blend frozen acai with spinach or kale and use coconut water or green juice as the base. Add sliced green apples, cucumber, and avocado for a refreshing and vibrant bowl.

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 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.

Can acai replace a meal? ›

Acai bowls make for a healthy diet and meal replacement. Making an acai bowl is also as easy as blending a few ingredients and adding your preferred toppings.

Is acai worth the money? ›

Açaí is widely considered to be very good for you. It is high in antioxidants, low in sugar, and packed full of healthy Omegas 3, 6, and 9. If you are looking for a low carb, low sugar, and nutrient packed fruit to incorporate into your diet, look no further than Açaí.

Are acai berries better for you 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 ).

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