Açaí bowls have gained popularity in the past 18 months or so due to the reported health benefits of açaí (and, in my opinion, the rise of healthy eating and veganism).
What are açaí bowls
“Açaí na tigela (“açaí in the bowl”) is a “typical Brazilian dish made of frozen and mashed açaí palm fruit. It is served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, and is commonly topped with granola and banana, and then mixed with other fruits and guaraná syrup.” Wikipedia.
But before we get any further, please listen to the correct pronunciation of açaí in this Youtube video.
Health benefits of açaí
The polyphenols in açaí seem to have potent antioxidant activity, induce vasodilation (expansion of the blood vessels) and lower blood pressure. Açaí extracts may also be protective against heart failure from myocardial infarction, renal failure and metabolic syndrome (1).
There is also evidence that polyphenol-rich plants may inhibit platelet activation and improve lipid parameters, thus reducing the risk for thrombosis and other cardiovascular diseases (2).
What about açaí bowls?
As mentioned at the top of the article, the bowls are made with the fruit extract and a bunch of other things. Let’s look at the Original Açaí Bowl recipe from Amazonia‘s website, a popular brand in Australia. The recipe calls for:
- 2 Amazonia Açaí Smoothie Packs
- 80ml liquid (non-dairy milk, apple juice or coconut water)
- 1/2 frozen banana
- Toppings: granola and fresh fruits such as bananas, strawberries and blueberries
Let’s say we use almond milk and add 1/2 banana, 3 strawberries, 6 blueberries and 1/4 cup granola. Our healthy breakfast now looks more like dessert, with 1650kJ (394Cal) and 63g of carbohydrate, of which 44g are sugars. Is the sugar load in one sitting worth the (perhaps modest) dose of polyphenols? Maybe not for some people, particularly those with insulin resistance. On the bright side, a regular-sized bowl will cover your fruit intake for the day. As always, check what’s in your bowl before you eat.
Value for money?
The lowest price for açaí bowls I’ve seen is $7.5. More often than not the price is $11 and over. For example, the chain Açaí Brothers sells their bowl varieties in 3 sizes, ranging from $11 to $37. Bondi Wholefoods has a Famous Açaí Antiox Bowl for $18.90, with the option of adding protein powder for $2. Sadhana Kitchen sells their Epic Acai for $17.50.
- de Moura RS and Resende ÂC. Cardiovascular and Metabolic Effects of Acai, an Amazon Plant. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2016 Jul;68(1):19-26.
- Santhakumar AB, et al. A review of the mechanisms and effectiveness of dietary polyphenols in reducing oxidative stress and thrombotic risk. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014 Feb;27(1):1-21.