What’s acai?

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Acai berries are a superfood packed with antioxidants, amino acids, protein, and fiber. They are traditionally eaten in Brazil and are difficult to find fresh outside of South America. They are often juiced and mixed with other foods or freeze-dried to retain their nutritional properties.

Acai berries are berries of the acai palm, native to northern Brazil. The berries have formed an important part of the diet of Brazilians and Native Americans for centuries and began being processed and exported for general global consumption in the 1990s. Many health food promoters have touted acai berries as a “superfood” because they are packed with a variety of vital and beneficial substances. Health food stores and gourmet food stores carry Acai berry products such as juice and frozen pulp.

The Euterpe genus of palms includes seven species, all of which produce acai berries. Palms can grow up to 100 feet tall (30 meters), with clusters of long leaves clustered at the top. Acai berries grow in clustered clusters, like grapes, and also physically resemble grapes as they are dark purple and rounded. Inside the acai berry is a single large seed.

In Brazil, acai berries are traditionally eaten at different meals, especially breakfast. Berries are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, protein and fiber. Berries appear to have one of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit, far more than grapes, mangoes, and other fruits consumed for their antioxidant benefits. The other components of acai berries are also very beneficial for human health, and a study by the University of Florida concluded that acai berries may also be beneficial in the fight against cancer.

It’s hard to find fresh whole acai berries for sale outside of Brazil, as the plants have so far proved difficult to grow in regions other than South America. The fruits are highly perishable and must be treated in some way for shipment. Juicing the berries is the most common way to prepare them for shipping, although much of the fiber component will be lost in juicing. However, the other benefits of the acai berry remain intact and the juice can be drunk, mixed with yogurt or blended into smoothies. Freeze-dried acai berries appear to retain many of their nutritional properties and often appear in this form outside of Brazil.

The flavor of the berries is often compared to other berries and chocolate. In Brazil, acai berries are sometimes served with a sweetener to enhance the flavor. They are also blended into smoothies and sodas, while the seeds are used in composting and mulch. The leaves of the acai palm can also be used as straw, making nearly every part of the living tree useful, allowing people to harvest produce from trees without harming them.

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