Acai is one of the more mainstream berries these days, but what exactly is it?

Acai (pronounced AH-sigh-EE) is a dark purple fruit originating from the Amazon rainforest where it has been a dietary staple for centuries. Although acai is commonly known as a berry, it is actually a drupe, making it botanically closer to a cherry than other berries. Harvested from acai palm trees, acai berries are typically soaked in water and then mashed into a paste form.  Because fresh acai is highly perishable, it is usually flash frozen shortly after picking for smoothies and juices. Since skyrocketing in popularity in other parts of the world, acai is now available in frozen packets, energy drinks, supplements, and even cosmetics.

Generally eaten in an acai bowl, the frozen puree of this vibrant fruit is blended to a smoothie-like consistency with a mixture of tropical fruits, and finished off with the toppings of your choice.

Is acai healthy?

Similar to berries, acai packs antioxidants and phytochemicals, which can help protect our cells from damage. Acai puree is a source of omega-3 fats, while also relatively low in calories. Pure acai puree is low in naturally occurring sugar, but look out for added sugar in many popular brands. Aim for unsweetened varieties when choosing your acai puree to cut back on added sugars.

While acai has been touted as a “superfood” for weight loss, anti-aging, or cholesterol-lowering purposes, more evidence-based research is needed – so take these claims with a grain of salt.

How should I enjoy acai?

Try blending unsweetened frozen acai puree with water or nut milk to achieve a thick smoothie-like consistency.  For a sweeter base with less added sugar, blend the acai with frozen banana or mixed berries.  Next, layer the bowl with your favorite toppings.  Top with your favorite sliced fruit, a drizzle of nut butter, or a spoonful of granola for an extra crunch!  Enjoy acai bowls as an occasional treat, and try to limit toppings with tons of added sugar.   Next time you’re looking for a sweet treat, give this Instagram-worthy snack a try!