Claims have been sprouting up within the weight-loss industry of acai berries as a weight-loss superfood. Although acai berries provide valuable health benefits, they may not be effective in the quest to lose weight.
What Are Acai Berries?
Acai berries come from acai palm trees (Euterpe oleracea) in the Amazon river basin in South America. The berry, related to the blueberry and cranberry, is an inch in diameter with a deep red pigmentation. Acai berries taste similar to other wild berries with a hint of chocolate.
Acai Berry and Weight Loss
While a fat-fighting superfood in the form of a tasty berry would be nice, claims of weight loss associated with the acai berry are unsubstantiated. Research on the effects of acai berry on weight loss is limited, says Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, and so far no connection has been proven. Some companies claim that the fiber and healthy fats in acai berries help metabolize fat and satiate your appetite. While fiber and healthy fats do contribute to weight loss in this way, claims Kathleen M. Zelman, director of nutrition for WebMD, the acai berry is so small that you would have to eat large quantities full of extra calories to reap the benefits.
Other Health Benefits
Acai berries contain antioxidants, such as anthocyanin, that help protect cells against harmful byproducts called free radicals. Antioxidants like those found in the acai berry may help fight against heart disease and cancer, Zelman says. The berries are also a source of dietary fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, though in small amounts.
Acai Berry Preparations
Acai berries are sold at many health and gourmet stores in the form of juice, frozen pulp, capsules and powders. Commercially available acai berry products are expensive due to the difficulty of transport and small size of the berry. Drinks and powders often contain additional sugar and other additives with only a small amount of acai extract.
If you plan to purchase acai berry products, avoid online free trails. A warning by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition consumer advocate, reported in April 2009 that many credit cards were being charged without consent after the termination of the free trial period. According to the office of the attorney general in Connecticut, the free trials can be difficult to cancel, and credit card charges range from $60 to $90.
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