Direct from Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet, deep in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil, healing acai berries dangle from acai palm trees. Recognizing the curative powers of acai centuries before it was introduced to the West, the Yanomani tribe refers to the acai palm as the “Tree of Life.”
Impressed with its restorative properties, which work from the inside out, Brazilians have dubbed acai “The Beauty Berry,” and the West is finally catching on.
In his New York Times #1 bestseller, “The Perricone Promise,” celebrated nutritionist / dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone, lists acai health benefits as the #1 Superfood.
“Superfood” is the health food industry’s stamp of approval for low-calorie, antioxidant-rich foods that lower your risk for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Acai, pronounced (ah-sigh-EE), isn’t your typical antioxidant-laden fruit. It is also high in essential fatty acids, amino acids and fiber, making it perhaps the most well-rounded, edible fruit on the planet.
This small but mighty fruit measures approximately 1-inch long and is colored varying shades of dark purple. Made up of 90% inedible seed, acai’s 10% edible pulp packs in more grams of protein than an egg and contains 15 times the amount of antioxidants as red grapes and 30% more antioxidants than blueberries.
In fact, its ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity)–the scientific measurement of a nutrient’s antioxidant magnitude–is over 3500, the highest capacity of any fruit!
The Low-Down on Antioxidants
You’ve probably heard the buzz about antioxidants, but just what are they, and what role do they play in your health?
Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins and other nutrients that prevent oxidation from occurring in your body. To understand oxidation, just imagine what happens to a cut apple when it is left uncovered for a couple of hours. It begins to brown and rot. The same process happens inside your body if it is not protected by antioxidants.
What causes the oxidation? Your body produces harmful byproducts called free radicals–unstable molecules that scavenge your tissues looking for electrons to steal. In the process, healthy tissues are destroyed, leading to aging and disease.
Unfortunately, we have entered an age of free radical overload, as our bodies are also attacked from the outside in via pollution, cigarette smoke and toxins from cleaning products and herbicides.
Antioxidants interrupt this destructive cycle by volunteering one of their own electrons, satisfying the voracious free radical before it can damage your cells.
Fortifying your body with antioxidant rich foods, particularly acai berries, halts the aging process, restarting long-lasting health and protecting against the oxidative stress that triggers diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Acai’s Unique Composition
Acai health benefits have all the typical vitamins and minerals found in popular fruits, but also contains unique, never-before-seen plant compounds. Acai contains the potent antioxidants flavonoids and anthocyanins, which are responsible for acai’s rich color and thought to be the key to acai’s remarkable restorative and preventative powers.
Scientists have still not figured out the exact makeup of this Superfood. Dr. Stephen Talcott of the University of Florida discovered 50-75 active natural molecules in acai that have yet to be classified.
The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry published Talcott’s study, which showed that acai health benefits were able to trigger apoptosis (cell death) in 86% of leukemia cells tested in vitro. Talcott was realistic but hopeful, explaining, “This was only a cell-culture model and we don’t want to give anyone false hope,” Talcott said.
“We are encouraged by the findings, however. Compounds that show good activity against cancer cells in a model system are most likely to have beneficial effects in our bodies.”
Antioxidants alone are enough to encourage indulgence in this decadent fruit. Add omegas 3-6-9 to the mix and acai health benefits truly earns its Superfood status. This perfect balance of omegas improves the look and feel of hair, skin and nails, and reduces inflammation inside the body.
Inflammation is recognized as one of the primary causes of life-threatening illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Acai health benefits also contains a healthy dose of fiber, amino acids and carbohydrates that boost your immune system and your metabolism, thereby slowing aging and promoting longevity.
The bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds of the pomegranate (Punica Granatum) have a long history of use as a medicine, particularly in the Middle East, India, and China. The Chinese and South Africans use it to treat inflammation, rheumatism, irregular uterine bleeding and hemorrhaging, and abdominal pain.
In Unani medicine (a traditional practice of medicine in south-Asian countries and the Middle East), pomegranate is prescribed as a food supplement to treat diabetes. Due to its potent antimicrobial properties, pomegranate has even been used to treat intestinal worms.
Now, research is revealing the extract’s promising antioxidant and anti-cancer potential.
Say “No” to Aging with Antioxidants
Without enough antioxidants, your body can’t fight off free radical damage, and becomes vulnerable to aging and disease. Pomegranate delivers a powerhouse helping of antioxidants when consumed internally as well as applied topically. Pomegranate’s antioxidant activity is fueled by ellagitannin compounds (punicalagins and punicalins being the standouts). It’s also packed with vitamin C—40% of the recommended daily value, in fact! These antioxidants, along with gallic acid and catechin, help accelerate wound healing, as well as repair sun-damaged, aging skin.
Experts have discovered that pomegranate increases the longevity of fibroblasts (cells responsible for collagen and elastin production). Collagen and elastin work together to give strength and support to your skin. A Medical College of Virginia study showed that the oil from pomegranate seed extract helps boost collagen production, thereby thickening both the outer and inner layers of the skin.
Other studies suggest that pomegranate seed extract may demonstrate a prohibitive influence on some forms of skin cancer. Snacking on pomegranate seeds is one way to benefit, but if you’re interested in the skin-saving benefits, seek out pomegranate seed extract oil in stand-alone form, or as an added ingredient in your skin care products.
Show No Mercy to Cancer Cells
An anti-inflammatory compound in pomegranate and pomegranate seed extract called punicic acid has been shown not only to reduce the inflammation that causes joint pain and arthritis, but also to fight cancer. A 2002 study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment showed that pomegranate seed extract suppressed the growth of estrogen-dependent cancer cells in culture. It also inhibited the ability of cancer cells to cross barriers and spread, and even increased apoptosis (cancer cell self-destruction).
A 2010 study in the International Journal of Oncology confirmed pomegranate’s influence on cancer cells, showing that cancer cell cultures treated with punicic acid experienced apoptosis at rates 91% higher than untreated cancer cells. Research has shown that pomegranate seed extract effects prostate cancer in the same manner. Pomegranate seed extract, along with pomegranate flower extract and pomegranate juice, has also shown promise in the treatment of colon cancer and leukemia.
Pomegranates have been prized for their nutrition value for more than 4,000 years, especially in the ancient world of the Middle and Near East.
Now, research shows that this time-honored fruit can fight heart disease…support healthy cholesterol levels…lower blood pressure…relieve stress…improve your sex life…and, according to a brand-new study, even slow down the aging process of DNA.
Pomegranate Benefits: An Anti-Aging Super Food
In November of 2011, scientists from the ProbelteBio laboratory in Murcia, Spain conducted a month-long study of the effects of pomegranate extract. The study focused specifically on the pomegranate’s rich stores of antioxidants (important compounds that prevent age-related cell damage).
The research team recruited two groups of volunteers. The first group was given extracts of the whole pomegranate fruit in capsule form (extracts included the pith or membrane, peel, and seeds). The second group received a placebo.
The research team was highly impressed with their results. Those who took the pomegranate extract showed a significant decrease in a specific, important marker linked to cell damage.
That marker, known as 8-Oxo-DG, can have detrimental effects such as:
- • Lessened brain function
- • Weakening of muscles
- • Impaired kidney function
- • Decrease in liver productivity
- • Aging of the skin
Sergio Streitenberger, lead researcher at ProbelteBio, believes the study “demonstrates that the regular consumption of this pomegranate extract can slow down the process of DNA oxidation.”
The pomegranate’s ability to decrease 8-Oxo-DG suggests that it wields significant power as an anti-aging super food.
Why Antioxidants Are The Ideal Anti-Agers
Antioxidants are crucial for preventing and reversing aging because they stop damage wrought by destructive free radicals.
“One way to look at aging is to think of it as rusting,” Streitenberger said, “or oxidizing.” Free radicals oxidize our body’s molecules. Everyday we take in these dangerous compounds in the food we eat, the beverages we drink, and even the air we breathe. “We get old because we fall apart cell by cell,” said Streitenberger.
Sandeep Prabhu, assistant professor of immunology and molecular toxicology at Penn State, says that foods especially rich in antioxidants—such as pomegranates—qualify as anti-aging super food because they have “the ability to neutralize harmful molecules in our cells.”
Once free radicals reach the DNA of our cells, Streitenberger warns, “the damage is cumulative and significant.” This is why the ProbelteBio study is so astounding. For any food to so effectively guard against the aging process “would be a significant breakthrough,” says Streitenberger.
A Pomegranate A Day…Unbelievable Benefits
Some scholars believe the forbidden fruit said to have tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate, not an apple. It could have been a mistranslation, because the word pomegranate comes from the Middle French pomme garnete, literally “seeded apple.”
Therefore, you might consider the pomegranate as the deluxe version of the apple, capable of so much more than simply keeping the doctor away.
But it’s important to remember that experts say the most potent pomegranate benefits come from consuming the whole fruit, not just the delicious seeds. Most commercial juices draw their content only from the seeds, and contain only small quantities of the powerful antioxidants that protect against aging. The real powerhouses are the inedible rind, hulk, and white pith.
These non-seed parts of the fruit are described as “inedible” not because they are toxic, but due to their bitter taste and unpleasant texture. With that in mind, heath practitioners recommend that you consider taking a supplement pill or health drink made with extracts of the whole fruit.