7 Nutritional Benefits of Acai

In recent years, acai berries have taken the health and wellness scene by storm, appearing in everything from smoothie bowls and iced drinks to baked goods and energy bars.   

Native to the rainforests of South America, the acai berry is not only bursting with flavor but also brimming with health-promoting antioxidants and heart-healthy fats.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the health benefits of acai based on the most recent research available. Let’s dive in!

1. High in nutrients 

Acai is an incredibly nutrient-dense fruit that’s low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. 

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of frozen acai pulp provides the following nutrients (1, 2, 3, 4, 5):

  • Calories: 60-70
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Sugars: <0.5 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1.3 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.1 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6 grams
  • Vitamin A: 1000 IU (20% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 10 mg (11% DV)
  • Iron: 1.1 mg (6% DV)
  • Calcium: 40 mg (3% DV)
  • Potassium: 105 mg (2% DV)

Acai most likely contains other vitamins and minerals as well, but the available research only discusses the nutrients we listed above.

What sets acai apart from other fruits is its fat content — at 5 grams per serving, acai is one of the highest fat fruits out there!

With each serving of acai, you’ll also get a hefty dose (20% DV) of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that contributes to healthy vision, immunity, and skin. 

Due to its high fat and low carbohydrate content, acai is also an ideal fruit choice for people following low-carbohydrate diets, like the keto diet.

2. Antioxidant-rich

Acai berries are best-known for being extraordinarily rich in antioxidants, compounds that neutralize free radicals and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases (6). 

Interestingly, acai berries’ antioxidant capacity is about 85% higher than blueberries, another fruit prized for its antioxidant content (7, 8). 

The main antioxidants found in acai are polyphenols, a group of naturally-occurring plant compounds that includes flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, and anthocyanins (9). 

Acai berries get their deep purple color from anthocyanins, a class of polyphenols with strong antioxidant properties (10, 11).

Consuming a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, like acai, is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from any cause (12, 13).

3. May lower cholesterol

Anthocyanins and other plant compounds found in acai may promote heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

A recent review of 44 studies showed that anthocyanin supplementation significantly reduced LDL and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (14).

However, most studies used doses around 100-200 mg (or more) of purified anthocyanins. A typical serving (100 grams) of acai pulp only has about 70 mg of anthocyanins (15).

Acai also contains sterols, compounds found in plants that are structurally similar to cholesterol (9). They lower cholesterol absorption in the gut, ultimately helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels.

Several animal studies have found that acai does in fact lower total and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol levels (16, 17, 18).

Results in human studies are less impressive. A few have seen slight improvements in cholesterol levels with acai, but others have failed to show any benefit (19, 20, 21, 22, 23).

Until more research is published, it looks like the verdict is still out on whether acai can lower LDL cholesterol levels. 

4. May protect against cancer

Researchers believe that the antioxidants in acai may help protect against cancer. 

Animal and test-tube studies show that acai extract promotes cancer cell death and slows tumor growth. However, several of these studies used extract from acai seeds, which typically aren’t eaten (24, 25, 26).

We could only find one study in humans — a clinical trial in 21 people with prostate cancer. They were instructed to drink 2 ounces of acai juice twice daily for 36 weeks (27).

They also had their blood drawn regularly to check levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a marker that increases when prostate cancer is present.

For 71% of participants, acai juice slowed the increase in PSA that would be expected in someone with prostate cancer, and for one person, PSA levels actually decreased significantly.

Based on these results, the researchers suggested that acai may play a beneficial role in treating prostate cancer. But many more studies are needed before we can draw any real conclusions. 

5. May regulate blood sugar

Acai is prized for its low carbohydrate content — a rare trait among fruits. 

With only 5 grams per 100-gram serving, acai is a favorite among people following low carbohydrate diets and an excellent choice for people with diabetes or anyone who needs to manage their blood sugar levels.

In one study, people with an overweight BMI (between 25 and 29.9) who consumed two servings of acai pulp every day had lower blood sugar following a meal after 1 month (19).

However, shorter studies and those using other forms of acai (like juice) haven’t found the same results (28, 29). Additionally, acai doesn’t seem to have an effect on fasting blood sugar levels (20).

Acai alone probably won’t be enough to bring down high blood sugar levels, but combining this low-carb fruit with a balanced diet may help prevent blood sugar spikes.

6. May promote brain health

Acai berries offer a wide range of plant compounds that may keep brain cells healthy and protect against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (30, 31).

One way that acai may promote brain health is by combating inflammation and oxidative stress, a process that damages brain cells over time (9, 31). 

Compounds in acai also act similarly to cholinesterase inhibitors, a group of medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease by increasing neurotransmitter levels (30, 32).

Although there hasn’t been any human research, several animal studies have shown that acai may improve memory and cognition (33, 34, 35).

Acai is also rich in anthocyanins, which have been linked with improved memory and faster processing speed (a measure of how quickly we can take in and respond to information) (36, 37).

7. May protect against liver disease

Acai may protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which excess fat builds up in the liver and can eventually lead to permanent liver damage.

Having high levels of fat in your liver is also linked with a higher risk of other conditions like diabetes and heart disease (38, 39).

In animal studies, acai extracts have been shown to reduce the amount of fat in the liver and slow the progression of liver damage caused by NAFLD (40, 41).

Acai extracts also reduce liver enzymes, such as Alanine transaminase (ALT) (41, 42). Having high liver enzymes in your blood indicates that liver cells are damaged, causing the enzymes to leak out. 

Researchers believe the antioxidants in acai protect the liver from damage by reducing oxidative stress and lowering inflammation (41, 43).

Other potential benefits

In addition to what we’ve discussed above, acai may have a few other health benefits. However, as of right now, there haven’t been enough high-quality studies to confirm them. 

We’ve listed these potential health benefits below, and we’ll add to them as new research becomes available:

  • Exercise performance: Athletes who drank acai juice one hour before running on a treadmill were able to exercise longer (44). In another study, acai juice reduced muscle damage caused by exercise (45).
  • Ulcers: Dried acai extract reduced inflammation in the stomach lining of rats with ulcers in one study (46).
  • Wounds: In rat studies, acai berry extracts promoted faster wound healing when applied directly to the injured area (47, 48, 49).
  • Tinnitus: In a clinical trial, people with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) who took acai extract supplements experienced less discomfort due to tinnitus after 3 months (50).
  • Gut health: Acai extract may increase Akkermansia muciniphila, a species of gut bacteria that may protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes (40, 51). 

Final thoughts

Acai is a nutrient-dense fruit that’s low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and heart-healthy fats. It’s also an incredibly rich source of antioxidants, which protect against disease.

Beneficial plant compounds found in acai may be responsible for a wide range of health benefits, including reduced cancer risk, lower cholesterol levels, and improved brain health.

More research is needed to confirm many of these benefits, but acai is still an excellent choice for anyone looking for a delicious way to boost their health.

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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