Berry, Berry Good

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RYAN HARRISON

Not long ago, the natives of the Amazon were the only people who knew and regularly enjoyed the many health benefits of a small, dark, and exotic berry. In time, this berry — the açaí [pronounced ‘ah-sigh-EE’] — found itself to be the focus of many research studies. The result? Açaí has become something of a super-food superstar, boasting a nutrient-dense profile packed with phytonutrients, fibre, amino acids, and more.

In today’s world, rife with toxins in the air, earth, and water, the name of the game is avoiding inflammation and undue stress on the body and its systems. These problems are often the result of the introduction of toxins into the body, a problem that is far more widespread than most people realise.

Scientists have known for years that we are at a point in human history in which we are simply unable to live a toxin-free life. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found 287 chemicals in the blood of only 10 Americans… all of whom were newborns. If even babies come into the world bearing such a toxic burden in their bodies, it should be obvious that all of us alive today are in a similar — if not worse — situation.

And, what’s the result of living in bodies that are beset by illness-inducing chemicals and toxins? There is a long list of possibilities including cancer, hormonal imbalances, immune system dysfunction, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, eczema, and many more.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you know enough about well-being to understand that what you eat plays an enormous role in your overall health. In recent years, studies have confirmed – and, continue to do so — that a diet rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and phytochemicals, can improve and enrich a person’s life, largely by helping the body detoxify and heal the damage caused by the various pollutants we come into contact with, more or less on a daily basis.

ENTER AÇAÍ

This little berry packs quite a powerful punch. It boasts one of the highest — if not the highest — ORAC rating known in connection with other antioxidant-rich foods. ORAC [oxygen radical absorbance capacity] scores are used to express a food’s antioxidant power. When properly prepared, açaí berries rank with an ORAC score many times higher than other well-known ‘good-for-you’ foods such as blueberries, oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes. And, the higher the ORAC value, the more potent the food is as a defence against damaging free radicals, infamous for their part in causing inflammation all throughout the body — from head to toe.

Açaí is naturally low in fat, sodium and calories, but is teeming with other health-promoting nutrients. Indeed, the açaí berry has been called the most nutritious berry on earth. When properly grown, harvested, and prepared, it contains 19 essential and non-essential amino acids — the building blocks of protein. It’s also the leading source of anthocyanins, powerful anti-oxidants that help reduce heart disease and high cholesterol. You may have heard that drinking a glass of red wine each day is healthy, because of its potential beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels. Açaí certainly surpasses wine in this respect, having up to 30 times the anthocyanins in red wine.

COMBATS DIABETES

One problem with berries tends to be that they are so high in natural sugar. For people who need to watch their glycaemic load, this can be a bother. How can they get the nutrients found naturally in berries without throwing their blood sugar out of healthy bounds? Fortunately, açaí is low on glycaemic index, due to its high concentration of fibre. Not only does this help moderate how much of its natural sugar makes it into the bloodstream, it also can help normalise blood sugar levels and, therefore, reduce the risk of diabetes.

The berry’s goodness doesn’t stop there. Açaí is naturally packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E; and, minerals such as calcium, chromium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Together, these essential micronutrients give the immune system a boost, improve cellular function, help reduce inflammation, increase energy production, and make many processes in the body run more smoothly.

Additionally, açaí berries contain a host of phytonutrients — active, health-protective compounds found naturally in plants. Some of these, called phytosterols, help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and combat cancer. Others, known as polyphenolic flavonoids, are determined to have anti-tumour properties, guarding against certain cancers. They are also anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic in nature.

Probably, the only thing that açaí has going against it is that it doesn’t grow in your backyard. Fortunately, several companies have answered the challenge to help make these precious little berries available to the general public. In the process, the strong interest in the Amazon-grown fruit actually helps protect the endangered forest and, as locals are employed to harvest the berries, the local economy is stimulated as well.

Not all açaí berry products are equal, however. The best will actually have been freeze-dried. While this may seem like an unnecessary or less-than-optimal step, in reality açaí fruit deteriorates quickly after harvest; freeze-drying the berries immediately after they are picked ensures that a minimum of nutrients are lost.

In addition, it’s good to remember that — just like most nutrients — açaí’s active constituents work best in tandem with other super-foods. So, look for a product that contains a blend of fruits and berries, in addition to açaí. This way, you’re guaranteed a product that will energise, revitalise and revolutionise your health and well-being.

AÇAÍ AHOY! 

Still not convinced? Or, do you need a quick list of reasons to help you explain to your family and friends why they should try açaí, too? Check out the following facts, and go for it:

  • Açaí protects cells from pathogens, antigens and carcinogens
  • It has one of the strongest antioxidant ratings of all studied fruits and vegetables
  • It actually restores antioxidants that get ‘used up’ by battling free radicals in the body
  • It helps reduce the risk of cancer by neutralising free radical damage to DNA, a vital step in the formation of cancer and tumour cells
  • It relieves inflammation due to its essential fatty acid and anti-inflammatory components
  • It combats the effects of diabetes, helping the body regulate blood sugar; it strengthens the pancreas
  • It strengthens the heart and blood vessel walls, and helps prevent oedema, strokes, and heart failure
  • It helps with digestion, as it comes with its own enzymes, improving nutrient availability and transport throughout the body
  • It helps protect memory by actively and aggressively combating free radicals
  • It helps save the endangered rain forests of Brazil and stimulates the economy of its indigenous people — [Adapted from 26 Reasons to Drink Açaí Berry Complex, by SoundConcepts of Health and Wealth, Inc.,].

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