A NY (+ Universal) Guide

Berry Good: What is Acai?

In Food on May 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm
Yum!

A cup of açaí mixed with banana and granola on the side.

Today I found myself craving a wonderful thing I discovered in Rio de Janeiro: açaí.

Acai (pronounced “Ah-sigh-EE”) is a reddish-purple berry that looks similar to a blueberry but is found in the Amazon region of Brazil. It’s becoming a popular item in the U.S., especially among health crowds, with companies such as Sambazon making a variety of food and drink products with the berry.

Recently, near my workplace in the Financial District of New York City – I’ve found a few of the juice carts making acai smoothies for $5 a pop. I was expecting the same rich, creamy texture that you get whenever you order it in Rio de Janeiro at a cafe or juice-post, but understandably it wasn’t the same.

While used differently in the Amazonian diet, in Brazil you will can get a bowl or cup of Acai almost anywhere. The berries are made into a frozen slush that can sometimes be mixed with other fruits, such as bananas, and is served in either a bowl or a cup.

At first taste, the concoction might taste like a slushy cross between blueberries and strawberries with a slight but delightful bitterness. You can also add fruit toppings or granola for an elevated taste.

On Why It’s a Valuable Fruit

My friends living in Rio raved on about the wonderful health benefits of Acai. It is similar in look, taste, and feel to berries, however it stands out among them because of its high content of fiber, anxi-oxidants, amino and omega fatty acids.

For example, 1 cup of acai is worth 84% of your daily recommended fiber intake. The fruit is becoming popular for assisting in slowing down the aging process, boosting the body’s immune system, helping you with your bathroom run, and removing destructive free radicals.

It’s also becoming known as the beauty berry as it can contribute to improving the quality and texture of your skin, hair, and nails.

However, all of this comes with a silver lining. If you are preparing it at home, the amount of sugar in the mix is completely up to you, but when prepared in at a cafe in Brazil, a hefty amount of sugar may be added. It’s also caloric, which means it can substitute for a meal. I loved having it for brunch while I was visiting in Rio as you can see in the picture above.

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