I am originally from Brazil, where acai juices and smoothies are sold in every corner and consumed eagerly. I have been amused by the latest craze over it, watching the web flush with ads and discussions over its effectiveness in weight loss (and I am not sure why Oprah ended up becoming its involuntary spokesperson – where do Oprah and losing belly fat exactly meet?). Back down in Brazil, acai is so nutrient rich (and very caloric at it) that it is a staple food for the inhabitants of the Amazon, where it grows natively.
When the beautiful, health-conscious and fitness-obsessed Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives) started consuming it by the buckets, it had a muscle-enhancing, powerfood vibe. It also had tons of Guarana syrup (more extra empty calories) and it was frozen, since the berries are very fragile and will not stand long term transportation.
By the time it made its way to the United States, the fad was huge – and the berry was, I don’t know why, elevated to the latest weight-loss miracle. I guess it could be, but only if Americans are ditching donuts and French fries in exchange for it. The truth is, most bottled acai smoothies sold in America are loaded with banana, pear, apple and grape juices, and the content of acai is minimal. The freezing and processing of any fruit juice usually strips it from its most subtle properties (antioxidants and other magic stuff), leaving it closer to empty calories than actual fresh fruit.
Plus, if you factor in the carbon foot print you end up with after you drink your delicious juice brought to you in New York all the way from the Amazon rain forest, you are better off having a handful of grapes, some pomegranate juice or even red wine – I bet Bad Green Karma gives us psychological love handles! If you are after antioxidant power, go local. Last time I went to Brazil, I heard about one magic, super powerful food that was becoming a pop star in the most hip grocery store aisles: blueberry. No man is a prophet in his own country.