THE READER
December 2006

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Grocery News

Açai

by Cory Schultz, Grocery Staff Member

You may have already heard of the incredible açai berry. This wonderful fruit (pronounced “ah-sigh-ee”) comes from the Euterpe species of palms which are located in the tropical areas of Central and South America. The fruit itself is rather small, very similar to a grape and usually dark in appearance when mature. The berries have a rather quick rate of deterioration, thus they appear mainly in juices, frozen smoothie mixes or supplements. These incredible berries offer a host of potential uses and health benefits.

Macronutrients

Açai is rich in a wide array of both macro and micronutrients. A 100-gram portion contains approximately 36 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of protein and 4.8 grams of fat, not to mention an amazing 34 grams of fiber, which happens to meet the adult recommended daily allowance.

Essential fatty acids

The fat content of açai is made up mainly of oleic acid (an essential fatty acid also known as omega-9 which is a monounsaturated fat), palmitic acid (a saturated fatty acid) and linoleic acid (known as omega-6, also an essential fatty acid).

Essential fatty acids contain what are called prostaglandins—hormone-like substances that regulate and control cellular activity such as inflammation, blood pressure and immune system activity. The other and more possibly widely known benefit of essential fatty acids is their ability to affect cholesterol levels. Fatty acids are able to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and help maintain healthy levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Of course, there is more to açai than just macronutrients, it also contains a good deal of micronutrients.

Micronutrients

Açai contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and E and a plethora of minerals and amino acids such as potassium, calcium, asperic acid and glutamic acid, to name a few. Potassium is not only essential in fluid balance but it is also necessary for proper functioning of nerve transmission, cardiovascular health, and kidney, adrenal and muscle activity. Calcium is important for muscle contractions, bone health, and the transmission of nerve impulses. As for amino acids, they are vital in protein synthesis. With all these nutrients in one small berry, it becomes much easier to see why this berry has been dubbed “super berry,” “power berry,” and “super food.”

High in antioxidants

Açai is also very high in antioxidants. One of the most notable effects of antioxidants is the ability to promote cardiovascular health. The antioxidant properties of the açai berry come from anthocyanins which give the plant its pigmentation. These anthocyanins may help prevent blood clots, improve blood circulation, relax blood vessels and prevent artherosclerosis.

At the Willy Street Co-op

We have a few açai options storewide. In our Grocery department, Sambazon juice and smoothie products are located in the dairy aisle above the orange juices or in the freezer aisle. According to Sambazon’s website, they were the first company to bring açai to the U.S. A section from their mission statementsreads as follows: “In Brazil, we have been working with the local NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to build the supply of organic and sustainable açai. Over 10,000 people in the Amazon help us harvest açai through our certified organic fair trade program. These people now have an incentive to manage their land and protect it for generations to come.” Along with refreshing beverages, the Grocery department also carries Prana Bars which are raw food bars that contain açai and other healthy food sources rich in enzymes. Also look for Nature’s Path Açai Apple granola in aisle four with the other cereals.

Shakes and supplements

If these items aren’t quite what you’re looking for, try the Wellness department. There you will find Nutiva’s Organic HempShake or Solaray’s Açai dietary supplement. Nutiva, much like Sambazon, is highly interested in promoting sustainable agriculture as well as providing superior nutritional value to their customers. In fact, a small percentage of sales is donated to groups that support sustainable agriculture. Solaray began its herbal production in 1973 focusing primarily on herbal combinations. By 1984 they began producing vitamin and mineral supplements as well.

Drink up

Açai is an amazing fruit that offers a wide array of health benefits—so to your health, drink up!