What is Acai Berry and Why All the Hype?
- Author Lloyd Forde
- Published December 16, 2009
- Word count 664
What is acai berry? A growing interest in physical health and an increased emphasis on overall well-being has propelled this powerhouse fruit to the forefront of the natural health care industry.
The acai berry, which finds its roots deep in the Brazilian jungle, rich in the traditions and folklore of the Amazon people, has recently captured a great deal of attention and encouraged countless studies for its undeniable benefits. Often referred to as a ‘superfood’ or ‘super fruit’, this berry has long been a food staple of native tribes who understood its amazing health properties, its medicinal purposes, and its ability to heal aliments centuries before it was discovered by the western world. Perhaps the best kept secret of the Amazon jungle, this impressive berry has made its presence known and is now in enormous demand, finding its way into juices, snacks, nutrition bars, energy drinks and supplements.
The acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berry is small, round, dark purple in color, and similar to a grape in both size and shape. It is the fruit of the acai palm tree found primarily in Brazil, Peru, and Central and South America. Once picked, it begins to break down almost immediately and has a maximum 24 hour life span so it must be transported in juice or powder form.
Although most of us cannot enjoy the fresh, just picked taste, the acai berry’s pleasing flavor, a mixture of berry and dark chocolate, makes it a popular choice for health products and smoothies. And for such a small fruit, it packs a powerful punch. Not only is it overflowing with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids, but researchers have learned that it is very effective for increasing stamina and boosting energy.
Known by the native people as ‘ica-cai’, meaning ‘fruit that cries’, the history of the acai berry is steeped in legend and tribal tradition. It begins with Iaca, an Amazon Indian girl whose father was tribal chief. The tribe grew so large, resulting in a food shortage, so the chief ordered all newborns to be killed. The day arrived when Iaca had a baby of her own, and mercilessly, her father also carried out the decree on his own grandchild. Apparently, Iaca became so distraught that she stayed alone in her hut for several days, mourning the loss of her child. She remained in seclusion until what she thought was a baby’s cry drew her outside. Following the sounds, she came upon a tree covered with fruit, lay under it and died. Many say it was of a broken heart, some believe she was simply weary, and still others hold that she was so distressed over finding a food source that could have saved so many innocent infants that she just couldn’t bear to live. The next day, when the tribesmen found her, they were amazed to also discover this new tree that would provide so much sustenance and strength for their people. In response, the chief lifted his decree and named the tree in honor of his daughter, ‘Acai’, Iaca spelled backwards.
Whether or not the legend holds true, one undeniable fact remains: the natives had within their hands a very powerful and nutritious fruit that not only sustained their tribe but would also have a colossal effect on the world outside their private jungle.
By the 1950’s, local doctors began to recognize the acai berry’s health benefits; and by the 1980s, it was being transported to Rio where it became the energy drink of choice for athletes and Brazilian surfers. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that it found its way to North America where recent studies as well as the marketing of its benefits and health properties have caused its popularity to surge to overwhelming proportions.
What is acai berry? It is perhaps one of the most supercharged, dynamic, and complete foods ever discovered. Something that can promote good health and still claim great taste. Sounds perfect!
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