phytochemicals Phytochemicals
 
 

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Acai

Acai

Euterpe oleracea

What is acai?

The acai palm is a slender and beautiful Amazon palm tree growing up to 30 meter. The ripe fruits are grape shaped and dark purple coloured. The fruits grow on branched panicles on the main stem below the palm leaves. The inside of the acai fruit is a single large seed surrounded with very dark coloured pulp.

Parts used

The inner growing tip, or palm heart, is harvested and eaten as food. The acai pulp inside the fruits is used as ingredient in juices and drinks. The acai pulp has a very typical and strong flavour, a bit like chocolate, and has a gritty and greasy mouth feel.

Phytochemicals

These are typical phytochemicals found in acai: acai fruits are very rich in vitamins but contain high levels of antioxidant phytochemicals such as, cyanidin.

Benefits of acai

Acai is traditionally used for its astringent and antibacterial activity. There are many health benefits attributed to acai such as reduced risk of cancer, inflammation, diabetes, urinary tract infections, heart disease and premature ageing.

Anti-cancer
A study by Del Pozo-Insfran D (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2006 February) showed that acai polyphenolics induced cell apoptosis of human leukemia cells. This study also confirmed that acai is very rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidant
Acai contains up to 30 times the quantity of flavonoids found in red wine and has the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) of any edible berry. Lichtenthaler R and colleagues studied the antioxidants in acais. They compaired the antioxidant activity of acai with those of some European fruits and vegetables and found that the antioxidant capacity of acai was stronger (against peroxyl radicals), similar (against peroxynitrite) or weaker (against hydroxyl radicals). White acai showed only very weak antioxidant activity. The main antioxidant was the anthocyanin cyanidin -3-glucoside.

Other facts

Acai is a palm native to tropical Central and South America, where native Indians have used it for centuries. Recently, acai has become very popular, partly driven by strong marketing campaigns, but mostly because of the nutritional befenefits.

Other names

Amazon palmberry


 
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