Açaí palm and its peculiar therapeutic properties

Therapeutic properties are attributed to it. Contains dietary fibre, vitamins A, B, C, E, mineral salts, metals, phytosterols, antioxidants, monounsaturated fats

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Açaí palm and its peculiar therapeutic properties
© Astrid Stawiarz / Stringer Getty Images

Açaí is a very curious berry, with great therapeutic power. Therapeutic properties are attributed to it. Contains dietary fibre, vitamins A, B, C, E, mineral salts, metals, phytosterols, antioxidants, monounsaturated fats. Some companies have started marketing it in the form of dehydrated fruit powder, and marketing some of its derivatives in the form of juices and food supplements. An article published in Phytochemistry Letters pointed out that, evaluating the available scientific literature, açaí does not appear to have as high antioxidant levels as advertised.

The berry is produced from palm trees, widespread in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. It reaches its maximum density in the Amazon River estuary. It is a palm with a thin trunk, up to 25 m tall and with a diameter of 9–16 cm. The pinnate leaves are up to 3 m long. The fruit is a rounded berry 1–2 cm in diameter, with a blackish epicarp and purple mesocarp.

Açaí
Açaí© Cindy Ord / Stringer Getty Images
 

Although these compounds are being studied for potential health effects, there remains no substantial evidence that açaí polyphenols have any effect on humans. Açaí oil is green in color, has a delicate aroma and is rich in oleic and palmitic fatty acids. The oil compartments of the açaí fruit contain polyphenols such as oligomers of procyanidin and vanillic acid, syringic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, protocatechuic acid, and ferulic acid, which have been shown to degrade substantially during storage or exposure to heat.

The fruit is processed into pulp for supply to food manufacturers or retailers, sold as frozen pulp, juice, or as an ingredient in various products such as beverages, including grain alcohol, smoothies, foods, cosmetics, and supplements. In Brazil it is commonly consumed as açaí na tigela.