Can You Be Allergic to Acai Berries? Here’s How to Tell

Navigating the world of food allergies can be a complex and sometimes daunting task, especially when it comes to less common allergens like acai berries. 

Acai is a popular health food often used in smoothies and smoothie bowls, but some people may not be aware that it’s possible to be allergic to it.

In this article, we’ll talk about what happens if you’re allergic to acai, how to find out if you are, and what you can do about it.

How common is acai allergy?

Honestly, acai allergy is probably not very common. 

According to the CDC, 6.2% of adults and 5.8% of children in the United States have been diagnosed with food allergies (1, 2).

The most common food allergens (referred to as the “Big Nine”) are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and sesame. These account for 90% of all food allergies (3, 4).

It’s unclear how many people are allergic to fruits — estimates range from 0.03% to 8% depending on the study and location (5).

Bananas, kiwi, and pineapple are some of the most prevalent fruit allergies, but it’s possible to be allergic to any fruit, including acai (5, 6).

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any case reports or studies on acai allergies. Until more research is published, we won’t know for sure how common it is.

What causes acai allergy?

Acai allergy, like other food allergies, occurs when your immune system mistakenly identifies proteins in acai berries as harmful (6). 

When you eat acai, your body sees these proteins as invaders and releases chemicals like histamine to protect you. This immune response is what causes allergy symptoms.

Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the person. Each person’s immune system is unique, and some people react to certain foods while others don’t.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly what causes food allergies. It might be related to a person’s genetics, environment, or even what their mother ate during pregnancy (7).

Signs and symptoms of acai allergy

Allergies to acai and other foods can vary from person to person but may include (7):

  • Oral symptoms: itching, tingling, and swelling of the lips and mouth.
  • Skin reactions: hives, itching, and redness.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Respiratory symptoms: wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. 
  • Cardiovascular symptoms: low blood pressure, weak pulse, and heart palpitations.

Raw fruit, such as acai, is more likely to cause a type of allergic reaction called oral allergy syndrome, which causes itching, tingling, or swelling of the mouth, lips, and throat (5, 8). 

Oral allergy syndrome tends to affect people with seasonal pollen allergies. This happens because the proteins in some fruits are similar to those in pollen (9).

How to test for acai allergy

Food allergies are typically confirmed using blood tests, skin prick tests, or a combination of the two (x). However, it’s unclear if these tests are available for acai.

Another option is to try an oral food challenge, which involves eating gradually increasing amounts of a suspected food allergen while being supervised by a medical professional (10).

If you start to show signs of an allergic reaction during an oral food challenge, the test is stopped and medical treatment is provided.

Ask your doctor about the best approach for testing if you suspect you have an allergy to acai or any other food.

Ways to replace acai

If you love the taste and health benefits of acai but think you might be allergic, there are several fruits that you can use instead.

Here are a few of the best substitutes for frozen acai, along with how they compare in taste, texture, and appearance:

  • Blackberries have a deep purple color, a juicy texture with lots of seeds, and a sweet-tart flavor. Although not quite as bitter or earthy as acai, we think blackberries are the best substitute.
  • Blueberries are dark bluish-purple with soft, juicy pulp and tiny seeds. They’re sweeter and less tart than acai, but blueberries are readily available and taste great in smoothies.
  • Raspberries are tart and slightly sweet with floral undertones and soft pulp that’s full of crunchy seeds. Red raspberries are the most common, but black raspberries, which are actually dark purple, are a better match for acai’s color. 

Unfortunately, none of these fruits are a perfect substitute for acai’s uniquely bitter, earthy taste. To mimic this, try adding a teaspoon of cocoa powder to whichever fruit you choose.

Want to know more about the best substitutes for acai, including acai powder and juice? Check out our article: What Can I Substitute for Acai?.

Final thoughts

While acai allergies may not be as common as allergies to other food, it’s important to recognize that they can occur and to be aware of the signs and symptoms. 

Symptoms can vary, but allergies to fruit often cause oral symptoms, like itching, tingling, and swelling of the mouth. See a doctor for testing options if you think you might be allergic to acai.

Thankfully, there are several fruits that can be used as acai substitutes for people who are allergic. Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are some of the best options.

Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today.  Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.

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