If you’re a lover of superfoods, sustainability, or sweet treats, you’ve probably heard of açaí bowls. But what are these Instagrammable bowls of wellness-boosting goodness, really?
Read on to learn all about açaí bowls, including where they come from, the health benefits of açaí, how to make your own açaí bowls at home, and more.
What Is an Açaí Bowl?
Açaí bowls are thick, nutrient-packed smoothie bowls made with the pureed pulp of açaí berries. They’re blended with classic smoothie ingredients like yogurt, oatmeal, juice, or milk – soy, almond, or coconut – and topped with granola, sliced fruit, or peanut butter.
What Is Açaí?
Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries grow in clusters on the açaí palm tree in South American rainforests. Sometimes called “purple gold,” the açaí berry – which is actually a drupe, as it contains a hard pit – looks like a dark, shiny blueberry.
What Does Açaí Taste Like?
You might be surprised to learn that açaí berries aren’t sweet. Instead, they have an earthy, complex flavor with a tart edge. Many people compare them to a mix of cocoa and blackberries.
The Açaí Bowl Story
Today, açaí bowls are often found at beachside cafes and smoothie shops. But they actually started out deep in the Amazon rainforests, along the Amazon River delta. Here’s a glimpse into the colorful history of the açaí bowl!
Where Do Açaí Bowls Originate From?
Long before it was the star ingredient of the latest food trend, açaí was a staple in the diet of the ribeirinhos – an indigenous population of sustainable, small-scale farmers who live along the Amazonian rivers. For thousands of years, indigenous Central and South American people have used açaí for medicinal purposes, in addition to serving it alongside fish, in soups, and with cassava root.
In the early 1970s, thanks to the migration of some indigenous groups from the Amazon delta to northern cities, açaí berries became more popular throughout Brazil.
There was just one problem: At that time, açaí was still too time- and labor-intensive to produce on a massive scale. Açaí berries had to be soaked and softened in water before their large pits were carefully removed by hand.
How Did Açaí Bowls Become Popular?
It was Carlos Gracie, an iconic martial artist and one of the founders of Brazilian jiu jitsu, who brought us the açaí bowl as we now know it.
Drawn to açaí berries because of their health-promoting qualities, Gracie blended the tropical treats with other frozen fruits to give his fighters a much-needed boost in energy. Brazilian surfers soon joined in on the craze.
After two brothers and their business partner learned about the benefits of açaí during a trip to Brazil in the late 1990s, they found a way to ship the frozen berry pulp to the U.S. Açaí bowls became popular in Southern California and Hawaii first, with the rest of the country soon to follow.
The Health Benefits of Açaí
Often hailed as an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense superfood, açaí has many potential health benefits. Here are just a few of the reasons you should consider adding açaí into your diet.
Açai and Heart Health
Looking to reduce your risk of heart disease? Açaí berries have many potential benefits for heart health. One study showed that the plant sterols in açaí berries lowered cholesterol and blood sugar after just one month. They’re also high in fiber and potassium, both of which can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
Açai and Antioxidants
When it comes to antioxidants – the compounds that naturally protect your cells from free radicals and reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, and more – it’s hard to compete with açaí berries. They’re packed with vitamin C, manganese, and anthocyanins, all of which slow down the effects of illness and aging in the body. With even more antioxidants than blueberries and grapes, açaí is a stress-fighting superfood.
Açai and Brain Function
If you want to keep your mind sharp as you age, you’re in luck – açaí is a true brain food. Studies show that açaí’s anti-inflammatory effects can potentially improve memory, promote learning, and boost cognitive function.
How Many Calories Are in an Açai Bowl?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 6-ounce açaí bowl has about 211 calories. If you’d like to be careful about your calorie intake, steer clear of oil-packed granola toppings and limit the amount of honey you add to your smoothie blend.
How Much Sugar Is in an Açai Bowl?
One reason that açaí berries are so popular among fitness enthusiasts? They’re surprisingly low in sugar. Instead, they’re relatively high in healthy fats.
However, with all their different ingredients, açaí bowls can be a different story. In fact, a single bowl may have 22% of the average recommended daily sugar intake. Skip flavored yogurts, high-sugar fruit juices, and sweetened açaí blends to keep the sugar content low.
Make Your Own Açaí Bowl
Ready to make your own açaí bowl at home? Here are a few things to know before you get started.
How to Thicken an Açaí Bowl
The best açaí bowls are as thick and satisfying as a bowl of ice cream.To get the texture you crave, use generous helpings of frozen fruit. Bananas, strawberries, pineapple, and mango will all do the trick.
You can also thicken your açaí bowl at home (and add some extra fiber into your diet) with a scoop of oats or chia seeds.
How to Store an Açaí Bowl
With all their fresh ingredients, açaí bowls don’t always have the longest shelf life.
Luckily, you can store your açaí bowl in the freezer for up to three days. Make sure to use an airtight container. If you can, remove the toppings first and store them separately.
When you’re ready to eat, just thaw your açaí bowl at room temperature for around 10 minutes. Grab a spoon and enjoy!
Try Some Açaí Today!
Ready to enjoy the many health benefits of açaí at home? Start with our easy, creative açaí bowl recipe.
For an even more convenient burst of flavor, try our Açaí Superfruit Juice. It offers an antioxidant-packed boost of immunity without sacrificing on taste or quality. Plus, you can feel good about the way you hydrate – at AMAYU, we only use sustainable harvesting practices that benefit indigenous people and protect the environment.