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Acai - For Real?


Ah, Acai. You've probably seen that word, proudly listed on many of the newer health-focused juices available, or perhaps appearing in pill form at health food and vitamin stores. Yet how many of us actually know what Acai really is, where it comes from, what form is best to take, and most importantly WHY we should even consider taking it in the first place?

And that's a good thing to ask such questions, as just because a product may say it has Acai in it, that actually means very little about whether you'll actually be getting any of the benefits of the real ACAI berry.

That's right: the Acai you might think you're getting may be doing little to nothing at all for you except, well, wasting your money.

So, what exactly is Acai? Acai, which is pronounced AH-SIGH-EE, is a unique berry which grows and is consumed in and around the Amazon rainforests of South America. It's either eaten straight, or more commonly puree'd and mixed with other foods, herbs (particularly the Ginseng-like Guarana, also popular in this region) and drinks in various ways, throughout South America and beyond.  And it has been consumed by the native peoples of South America for longer than we can know, quite likely thousands of years, revered by many as nothing less than a wonder food -- given the wide range of very palpable health & physiological benefits that those who consume Acai have reported (for a long, long time).

Word travels fast these days. Sure enough, when word got out about the myriad benefits of this odd berry and then numerous scientific research studies followed, various health benefits were both discovered and confirmed, perhaps the most notable being antioxidant level testing using the standard ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity) system, which found the Acai berry's antioxidant levels higher than any other tested so far, even exponentially higher than other known superfoods such as blueberries(!) No wonder it got people's attention outside of South America...

And, sure enough, guess what color Acai is? Those of you who have read our other BrainReady blog and Podcast features regarding the power of blue and purple and red foods probably guessed right: it's purple, and incredibly high in the anthocyanins department.

But the staggering antioxidant/anthocyanin levels are just the beginning of this very unique, and quite odd, berry:  highly unusual for a berry, Acai actually contains healthy fatty acids. Yes, the kind you normally find in other foods such as salmon and flax seed. And the berries themselves even have an oily texture as a result. Weird, and good.

How's that for a "perfect food": the benefits of blue/purple foods, staggeringly high antioxidant levels, and the essential fatty acids of wild salmon! But wait, there's more: It also has a high protein content, again quite unusual for a berry. It also contains many of the compounds, amino acids, vitamins and minerals of other superfoods like blueberries and pomegranates and the like, while having almost no sugars resulting in a low glycemic index (meaning that it's low in simple sugars that could spike your insulin levels). And it has lots of fiber.


So, given all these benefits, it's no surprise that it was originally consumed by natives as a wonder food providing energy and stamina and good health...which is of course also now confirmed by those who have discovered it and take it daily. Acai has also been shown to be remarkably safe, with even pregnant and nursing mothers often consuming it to give them more strength and vitality (plus, those essential fatty acids, as with wild salmon, aren't too shabby for the developing brain of the baby as well as the mother). There are no known contraindications yet discovered.

It all sounds pretty great, right? Why not just head to the grocery store and buy a bunch NOW?

Not so fast, unless you happen to live in the Amazon rainforest yourself: Acai is a VERY fragile, perishable berry indeed. So perishable, in fact, that once picked they can go bad within as little as 24 hours, which makes the idea of flying them in their original state to places like the US, Australia, Europle, UK, Canada etc...well, non-optimal at this point. So, the solution thus far has been to "process" the berries right there, at the source, within hours of picking, using various methods to preserve their precious health as much as possible.

Various methods are now employed, given the explosive demand for Acai. One company in particular, , founded by two surfers who apparently discovered Acai during their surf expeditions in South America and relied on the berry for energy and stamina, has been pioneering techniques to bring the health benefits of Acai to the rest of the world in an eco-friendly, native-friendly way, thanks to a combination of employing local workers paid fair wages (Fair Trade) to source true organic Acai berries using sustainable environment practices, state-of-the art Acai pulp-making, freeze-drying and other techniques to make Acai transportable in various forms around the world without significantly diminishing the health properties (thanks to the techniques employed).

There are actually now several companies making Acai products or products containing some Acai, too many to mention. But here's where the concern comes in: the quality of the sourcing, processing and packaging/transport is incredibly important. With so many new supplements and juices and products coming out on the market with the words "contains Acai" on them, you need to know that only real, fresh Acai berries that have been properly sourced, processed, packaged, stored and then consumed in quantities high enough to provide actual health benefits, are likely to provide the health benefits of the real, fresh Acai berry. And hence paying any money for (just like as with other herbs and supplements out there, you might be paying money for "dirt", or old dried-out worthless dust).

With so many of those bottled juices and Acai pills on the vitamin shelves out there now that say "contains Acai" but don't list any information about the source, processing, actual nutritional contents, you just simply don't know what you're really getting (again, as with many other herbs & supplement products), and in the case of the very fragile, perishable Acai this is more important than ever.Unfortunately, the word "Acai " is likely already being used and abused as more of a marketing buzzword promising visions of health, without the science or testing or proof of sourcing to back it up.

Fortunately, in the case of Acai, this FOOD is real, and thankfully there ARE properly sourced, processed and packaged Acai food & supplement products out there (read on for more about that). The ORAC and other testing confirms the health benefits of the Acai berry. The constituents (unique combination of omega fatty acids, protein, anthocyanins, high antioxidant levels, etc.) are real. But you need to get it "as close to fresh" as possible, organically grown, from a good source, with proper packaging to keep it fresh, and know how much you're really getting in the product you're buying.

So, BrainReady tried it. Lots of it. Our findings and recommendations: those of you who have heard our BrainReady BrainCast Episode 9 know that we embarked on our own research & testing in order to find what we believe to be the truly best Acai product(s) out there on the market, via a combination of taste-testing actual products ourselves (and noting any benefits or findings), researching available existing studies and research on commonly available Acai products, and talking to some other health/nutrition peers and experts whose opinions we respect.

In short, from our findings, the company/source that we suspected would be at the top remained that way: , which we mentioned earlier. We found Sambazon's pure organic freeze-dried Acai powder (their '), which use their organic Acai puree, to be the best-of-breed compared to other options, on all marks: nutritional testing and care for preserving the health components of Acai throughout the product process, freshness and packaging quality, information on how their Acai is sourced and processed within hours of picking, the fact that their Acai appears to be the only widely available organic Acai on the market (there may be others, but then those products may likely get their Acai from...Sambazon!), even taste.

And we like their story, mission, general attitude around eco-friendly practices, fair trade, organic foods, founded by two surfers who genuinely wanted to spread the word rather than a big pharmaceutical company looking to patent something and make a buck, etc.


We were actually so impressed after trying their Acai powder () product that we now take it daily: we do a scoop or two mixed with either wild blueberry or pomegranate juice, or sometimes just water.

We have also felt the various "positive effects": sure, in the absence of a lab and the ability to conduct a large-scale double-blind test, it may be psychosomatic or placebo effect, but those of us here who have been taking it daily have just felt generally "better": more energy yet calmer mentally, positive, and no one has come down with a cold or flu (despite many around us getting colds and flu's this season).

Sure, there's no telling whether it's the Acai at work here, or Acai plus the other health foods & practices that we've talked about in our BrainReady Blog and Podcasts, or something else. But then again, there's also a reason why we feel like taking a scoop or two each day, every day. It feels right.

(Oh, and full disclosure: as with other foods and supplements that we discuss on BrainReady, we are NOT affiliated with the Sambazon company nor are we being paid to say any of this; we've chosen (on our own) to provide this info as well as provide affiliate links and a banner ad for the Sambazon products so that you can easily get them wherever you may live and have them shipped to you if you choose to, particularly as their products are not available in many local stores yet, particularly outside the U.S. It's an easy way to have their Acai shipped  right to your doorstep. BrainReady is product and company-agnostic while being fans of great products and companies that are worthy of praise for their efforts, and this is one of them. And in fairness to other brands/sources, we will also continue to look for other Acai products out there that are of high quality, and share any findings with all of you so that you have even more options...the more high-quality options, the better for all of us).

Okay, sounds good. But this is does Acai relate to brain health!? Well, first of all, the incredibly high antioxidant levels have a direct impact, as antioxidants in our diet can help to reduce the damage to the lining of our arteries which affect proper blood flow to the brain, one of the biggest and most important dietary things you can do for your brain health. Secondly, those omega fatty acids in the berry help to do the same kinds of things that other foods rich in omega fatty acids for your brain, including helping your neurotransmitters work properly to helping your mood to helping with serotonin levels and more. And then there's the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other components of Acai which benefit your brain and your body...your overall health, not to mention help boost your energy and stamina.

In conclusion, our investigation into All Things Acai has made it clear to us that Acai is clearly great stuff, and a worthy addition to a healthy diet. But be smart and know that not all products that say 'contains Acai' on them will give you anywhere near the benefits of the real, fresh or properly processed Acai berry. From what we can tell thus far, the appear to be the closest thing to fresh Acai berries on the market. And further, remember that there is no miracle cure in a pill or bottle, so be smart with your money and check the facts first...don't be fooled just because some juice or pill on the store shelf says "contains Acai!".

So whether you end up trying the , other products, or find yourself eating the real, raw Acai berries in the middle of the lush Amazon, now you hopefully have more knowledge and perspective (as well as a way to get some great stuff shipped to you if you like) about this wonderfully odd, unique berry for brain & body alike. And we like!

Time for another scoop.... ;)

-The BrainReady Team

*** Update: for those of you who asked for the link to the Sambazon Acai products page for ordering & info,

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