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.
Little do most people know, however, that there is a far lesser known North American berry about to stake it’s claim as a truly remarkable super berry: Aronia.
Off the Charts Antioxidant Power!
Aronia berries are rich in anthocyanins, the substance that gives this fruit its deep shade of purple. Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation and levels of C-reactive protein, a byproduct of inflammation. If left unchecked, inflammation is the spark to many chronic and life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
Aronia berries are also high in plant-based super-antioxidants called proanthocyanidins that help boost circulation by strengthening capillary walls and act as an overall tonic for the cardiovascular system.
Proanthocyanins also suppress enzyme breakdown of collagen and alleviate allergies.
Full-Body Health Benefits
The aronia berry also possesses extreme anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-diabetic properties… This fights arterial plague formation… reduces serum cholesterol, shields the liver and kidneys from toxins, lowers blood sugar and balances insulin production. Enriched with flavonoids, the aronia berry also protects against peptic ulcers, eye inflammation and urinary infection.
The aronia berry has shown exciting promise as an anti-cancer agent. Research suggests aronia berries may help defend against tumor formation in the bladder, breasts, colon, lungs, ovaries, and skin. Preliminary studies indicate that the berry may even slow the progression of glioblastona, a lethal form of brain cancer.
New Berry on the Block!
Aronia has been commercially cultivated in Russia since the 1940s and in Europe since the 1950s. But it wasn’t until 2009 that the Midwest Aronia Association formed in Iowa in order to provide information and other resources to those interested in growing this super-healthy berry. Now, the Association has members in California, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada. This means that if you don’t already have aronia products available on your local store shelves, you should soon (and in the meantime, you can also look online for internet retailers).
When it comes to choosing a quality product, you’ll be glad to know that aronia berries are naturally pest-resistance and need no agricultural toxins. That said, you should still look for bushels stamped with the USDA organic certification label to make sure you’re benefitting from 100% pure antioxidant advantage.