The Health Benefits of Acai and Cherries

The Health Benefits of Acai and Cherries

Acai: The Antioxidant

Both Acai berries and dark cherries are powerful antioxidants with acai at the top of the ORAC scale (oxygen radical absorbance capacity). The USDA scientists have developed the ORAC scale to measure the ability of antioxidants to absorb free radicals.  (USDA Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University.)  Free radicals are an atom or group of atoms with one or more unpaired electrons that is produced in the body by natural biological processes or introduced from an outside source and that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by altering their chemical structure. Essentially they are unstable molecules, atoms or ions that can cause harm to the body.  (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freeradical)

 Acai berries showing the deep purple color common in berries containing antioxidants

 

What Causes This Antioxidant Effect?

The Acai Berry is found primarily in Brazil.  They grow on a very tall slender palm tree.  This tree produces fruit that grows in bunches.  It color is dark purple.  Each tree produces around four to eight bunches of fruit in a year.  All parts of the palm have been used for medicinal purposes in the Amazon region for many years but it is the fruit that has become a popular juice drink in South America.  The juice is thick and deep purple in color.   This deep color is also found in other fruits such as blueberries and raspberries.  These fruits contain anthocyanins known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Acai contains one of the highest amounts of anthocyanins of all fruits.  Along with other deep red/purple colored fruits and vegetables, acai and dark cherries help to “quench” the free radicals.  The high polyphenol content helps to protect body tissues as well as the blood from free radical activity.
 
While the concept of free radical activity is a bit complex, it helps us to understand some of the activities that take place within our bodies and things we can do to enhance our good health. 
 
Anthocyanins are also  in acai berries and other darkly red and purple colored fruits.  According to current research,  ingestion of these substances assists in inhibiting cancer growth, reducing cardiovascular disease, limiting DNA damage, improving the function of the eyes, increasing glucose tolerance and improving lipid profiles. 
Flavanoids found in acai are also known antioxidants.  In one study five flavonoids were extracted from the pulp of the acai.  One of these, velutin, was found to be a very strong antioxidant and therefore exhibiting an anti-inflammatory effect.[1]  In another study,  acai pulp was found to be a superior anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.[2]  A study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry also showed an increase in anti-oxidant activity in test subjects.[3]

Other Health Benefits of Cherries

 Cherries, especially dark and tart, contain powerful compounds that appear to have anti cancer effects and are a great source of antioxidants which include quercetin, genistein, chlorogenic acid, and naringenin. 
 
Research at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has shown that tart cherries provide more reduction in inflammation than NSAIDS. 5 Cherries also appear to provide some protection against the painful symptoms of gout and may help to reduce serum urate levels.  In addition, tart cherries contain melatonin that aids the brain and promotes memory and sleep.
 
It seems that our good health always returns to our diets and proper nutrition.  Research seems to support this.  And research also finds that certain foods such as acai and cherries are great contributors to a healthy life through alleviation of inflammation, possible prevention of cancer, cardiovascular benefits, and brain health.

[1] Kang,J, Xie,C, Li, Z, Nagarajan, S, Schauss, A, Wu, T, Wu, X  Flavanoids from acai (Euterpe oleracea Mart) pulp and their antioxidant and anti-inflamatory activities, Food chemistry, Vol 128, Sept 1, 2011
[2] Xie,C, Kang, J, Burris, R, Ferguson, ME, Schauss AG, Nagarajan,S, Wu, X,Acai juice attenuates atherosclerosis in ApoE deficient mice through antioxidant and anti-inflammaroty activities, Atherosclerosis, 2011, Jun2 16(2):327-33. Doi: 10.1016/jatheroslerosis. 2011.02.035. Epub. 2011 Feb 24.
[3] Jenson,GS,Wu, X, Paterson, KM et all, In vitro and invivo antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities of an antioxidant-rich fruit and berry juice blend., J Agric Food Chem 2008 Sept 24;56(18) 8326-33 doi  10. 1021/jf80 16 157 Epub 2008 Aug 22.

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