There has been lots of hype in the last few years about how one little purple berry is the answer to all our weight loss problems. Celebrity endorsements, Internet advertising, and the appearance of acai berries in nearly every product in the grocery store have only added to the confusion. So what’s the truth about this intriguing berry? Is it a miracle-cure for obesity, or just another weight-loss myth?
Acai berries grow on Acai Palm trees throughout Central and South America. They’ve long been a staple of the indigenous people’s diets, and have recently been “discovered” by western science.
The basis for the hype that surrounds this blueberry-like fruit is that it is packed with immune-boosting antioxidants, the likes of which you can’t find anywhere else on earth. Antioxidants are an important part of a healthy eating plan. They’re like little riot police, putting a stop to all those hoodlums, the free radicals. Free radicals are to blame for everything from aging to cancer, so they need to be stopped.
What’s not so clear is if free radicals have much to do with weight gain, or the inability to shed those unwanted pounds. Free radicals come from things like fried foods, so there appears to be a correlation between them and weight gain. But free radicals are also caused by many other things, including respiration. So it’s unclear whether or not free radicals cause us to gain weight, or if it’s all that fried food we’re eating. Certainly, adding a few antioxidants to your diet can’t hurt, though. The question is, are acai berries the best foods for the job?
Well, acai berries are fairly bursting with antioxidants, but they’re not really any better source than locally grown blueberries or raspberries. In fact, they may even contain less antioxidants than black cherries. So if you really want to gain the benefits of all those antioxidants, grab a bottle of blueberry or cherry juice rather than acai berry juice. Your wallet will thank you.
But what about those super-concentrated acai berry supplements? Surely those are better for promoting weight loss than cherry juice? Not likely. Not only are nutritional supplements not regulated – and therefore not measured for effectiveness or even the presence of the very nutrient they claim to contain – but the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society have both stood out against taking supplements of this kind. The truth is, ingesting too many of these types of nutrients can be worse for your health than not taking any at all. In fact, some studies have shown that people who take antioxidant supplements are more likely to suffer a heart attack.
Are acai berries healthy? Certainly. So are all dark-colored fruits and vegetables, and you should absolutely add more of them to your diet. But it’s unrealistic to expect to lose weight simply because you ate some acai berry. Weight loss is a simple equation: burn more calories than you ingest. That means the only sure-fire way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.