The hottest new superfood is probably one you've never heard ofand probably can't pronounce. Açai (ah-sigh-eee) is a rich purple fruit that reportedly has 10 times the antioxidants of red grapes.
Tasting like a bitter hybrid of raspberries and chocolate, açai has been an energy-boosting staple in South America for years. Only recently, after an endorsement from Nicholas Perricone, MD, on the Oprah Winfrey Show, did food companies in the United States start scheming up products. Açai is now a multimillion dollar industry, and a simple Google search of the word brings up everything from pills to pulpsand it isn't cheap! A 32-ounce bottle of açai puree will set you back $40.
Açai boasts impressive health benefits, including cancer prevention and even weight loss, that are backed up by limited research. A 2006 University of Florida study showed that extracts from açai berries destroyed cultured human cancer cells!
Plenty of nutritionists are still skeptical, though, including our resident dietitian Julie Upton. "Just because it has a lot of antioxidants doesn't mean any of them get into your blood or tissues. They need to be absorbable," she says.
So, while scientists are continuing to study the health benefits of açai, don't waste your hard-earned money. Instead, consider a few cheaper ways to sample this popular fruit, without breaking the bank.
- Blue Bunny's FrozFruit Superfruit Raspberry Açai bars. They're nonfat, only 90 calories, and contain real pureed açai and raspberries. $4 for a package of six.
- Sambazon Organic Açai juice. This drink contains 50 calories per serving, 80% juice, and no added caffeine. $48 for a 12-pack.
- Tropicana Pure Raspberry Açai juice. Sip on this 100% juice drink for just 140 calories, 1 gram of fat, and no added sugars. $2.50 for a 12-ounce bottle.