In continuing our Healthy Foodie Week in honor of New York Restaurant Week, we’re starting with breakfast. You may have heard of a new trendy food, the mighty acai bowl. It’s all over Instagram and Pinterest alike because it’s a great blend of a refreshing and nutritious smoothie paired with soul-satisfying granola that will keep you full until lunch. Thanks to the superfood acai, this healthy and delicious bowl is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and essential amino and fatty acids.
On top of this, no one in your family will complain about scarfing down an acai bowl for breakfast because it’s darn delicious. Acai bowls are as close as you should be getting to ice cream for breakfast, but they’re far from a guilty pleasure. They basically consist of a thick smoothie topped with granola, oatmeal, fruit or peanut butter. As for the acai smoothie portion, in the U.S., acai berries come not as a whole fruit, but as frozen pure that you must find in the freezer section of local health food stores, Whole Foods, or purchased online through Amazon or one the website of one of the biggest producer, Sambazon (see the handy infographic below). Finding acai puree is only half the battle; the right texture is absolutely key (you may need to play around a bit). You want a consistency that is thick enough to be scoopable, but not so dense that it doesn't blend all the way. Normally, a mixture of acai puree with frozen fruit such as banana or strawberries -- and sometimes soy, almond or coconut milk to thin it out and add creaminess -- gets you just the texture you need.
If it sounds like work, that’s because it is. You’ll need practice to make perfect, and this might be a once-in-awhile treat, as the berries come all the way from Brazil. But acai goes beyond what most trendy foods like cronuts or bacon ice cream can do. It actually packs quite a health punch, so be sure to buy organic acai puree for all the benefits. Here are 12 health benefits that the Global Healing Center lists:
Heart Health: Similar to red wine, research shows that acai berries are extremely high in anthocyanins, a form of plant antioxidant associated with the ability to lower cholesterol levels in the blood stream. They are also rich in plant sterols that provide cardio-protective benefits to our cells. It does this by preventing blood clots, improving overall blood circulation, and relaxing the blood vessels.
Resistant to Harmful Organisms: Scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro have shown that consuming acai extract may help fight harmful organisms.
Aids in Weight Loss: Known by nutritionists as a super-food, acai may help us not only lose weight, but maintain a healthy weight. One interesting study from the National Institutes of Aging found that pulp from the acai berry had the ability to reduce the negative effects of a high-fat diet in laboratory studies on flies.
Promotes Skin Health: Currently, many modern beauty products are carrying acai oil, again due to the oil’s high antioxidant content. What is more, acai oil is a great natural alternative to chemical based skin-care products that harm the skin in the long-run. Taken internally, the berries can also give your skin a healthier glow. In fact, Brazilians have been eating acai berries for centuries to treat skin conditions.
Helps with Digestive Upset: Taking acai may also aid in keeping our digestive system clean and in optimal function. The berries have powerful detoxification capacities in the human body and are a well-known traditional source of dietary fiber. Of course, there are many other high fiber foods that can do the same thing, including many other types of berries.
Reduces Irritation: Acai berries contain properties may prevent the typical irritation associated with respiratory distress.
Improved Cellular Health: On a general level, the anthocyanins found in acai play a role in our cellular protection system, helping to keep cells strong against the invasion of free radicals.
May Help Fight Cancer: Acai is very high in Vitamin C and ellagic acid, an immune-system-boosting combination that has been shown to reduced cancer cell proliferation by 56-86%. It is thought that acai’s phytochemcials can stop the process of carcinogenesis on a molecular level, killing off tumorous cells before they multiply. Acai berries are not a cure for cancer; but hopefully more research will examine their benefits and potential role in the fight.
Anti-Aging Effects: Extremely high in many forms of plant phytochemicals (antioxidants), acai berries may contribute to an ability to slow or reverse typical processes of aging related to oxidative damage. In fact, the berries are one of the planets highest sources of antioxidants, with one berry holding ten times the amount of antioxidants as grapes, and two times the amount of blueberries.
Energy Boost: Due its overall health benefits, taking acai extract can lead to an increased overall level of energy and stamina, and may aid to combat fatigue and exhaustion. Whenever you need a boost, simply eat a handful of berries and you will be ready to go in no time!
Better Sex: This famous red berry has also been linked to overall increased blood circulation in the human body, a phenomenon that may contribute to a boost in sex drive, especially for men.
Improves Mental Function: Preliminary research studies show that acai may prevent mental imbalance in menopausal women.
Here’s just one of many recipes for you to try (obviously, it’s very easy to play with the recipe as you see fit). You can also try the recipes on the infographic. Enjoy!
- 2 packages of pure, organic frozen acai
- 1 ripe banana
- Non-dairy beverage (e.g., soy milk, almond milk, etc.) or organic fresh apple juice
- Raw Honey
- Strawberries, sliced
- Plain Granola*
Blend the acai together with 1/2 a banana and a small amount of non-dairy milk (use just enough to blend it into a smooth mixture). It should be a nice thick paste.
Scoop this mixture into a bowl.
Sprinkle plain granola, the other 1/2 of the banana sliced, strawberries, and drizzled honey on the top.