You see them popping up everywhere - people are talking about them and they're on all the healthy menus these days, but.... do you really know what's in a Acai bowl? (FYI -it's pronounced "ah-sigh-ee"- just so you sound like a pro when ordering).
Well first, Acai berries are a anti-oxidant fruit usually found in the rain forest of the Amazon. They are hailed as being an immune stimulating, energy boosting, weight loss promoting, protein filled, anti-aging superfood. The acai berry is 90% seed, the remaining 10% is the only edible part and when ground with water it becomes a thick purple puree, like a sorbet.
Great. So now I know that the base of my acai bowl is nutritious with a ton of health benefits but what about the other stuff that gets mixed in? How do I know which toppings to add? Which to omit? Not gonna lie, I often ask how much sugar is in something when ordering and when the response is, "well, its natural sugar", it makes me nervous because that means it's probably high. Fruit in general has a high sugar count, yes it's better than junk food but the sweeter it is the higher the grams of sugar - natural or not. Acai bowls are no exception, the majority range from having 50 - 100 grams of sugar (depending on size and toppings), that is a TON of sugar, natural or not. Choose your toppings wisely! Granola and honey and bananas have a very high amount of natural sugar, too much of any will not be your waistlines friend!
Let's take for example this acai bowl that I probably get at least once a week from a local Juice shop. The list of ingredients are as follows:
Acai Frozen Berries (frozen are my favorite because it tastes like sorbet!)
* the above are pureed together and then you get to pick your toppings!
Bee Pollen (ummm yes, that's what the yellow seed looking things on top are)
While everything in here is 1 million % delicious, the bananas, apple juice, granola and honey all have high sugar counts. So if I were to eat this on a more regular basis I would be omitting the granola and banana on top and maybe halfing the honey amount. Is it as filling as a meal? Absolutely - it is so packed with stuff it's actually heavy!
YOU'RE PUTTING WHAAAAT ON TOP OF MY FOOD?
Bee Pollen (refrain from gagging, it tastes ok when masked in with all this other good stuff). It's rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids and fatty acids, enzymes, carotenoids and bioflavonoids. It has powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties that strengthen the capillaries, reduce inflammation, stimulate the immune system and lower cholesterol levels naturally. Wow! That seems like a lot of pros!
Are there any cons? Some argue that it can cause an allergic reaction if you already have pollen allergies. Others believe that taking a spoonful on a daily basis BEFORE allergy season begins actually helps build up an immunity to it and thus keeps you allergy free! Living in the allergy capitol of the world, I know quite a few people who swear it works!
WHAT ON EARTH IS A GOJI BERRY & WHY SHOULD WE EAT THEM?
This superfood provides high levels of antioxidants and nutrients. Also called the wolf berry, it comes from a shrub that's native to China. They have been eating them in Asia for years in the hopes of living longer. They claim to improve your immune system and fight cancer. They promote healthy skin, protect eye health, help stabilize blood sugar and detoxify your liver. On top of the health benefits, they also taste great and take a while to chew. If you are trying to watch your weight, studies show that eating foods that take longer to chew will help you feel fuller faster. Your mind is tricked into thinking it'e eating more than it actually is - bonus!
So now you know WHAT you're ordering the next time you order an Acai bowl - or maybe this will give you the push you need to choose one of these OVER a fast food option the next time you're out to breakfast or lunch!
Packed full of superfoods and so filling, it's a super choice whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain your weight or just trying to do something great for your body!
Like anything else, moderation is key. The same way the ingredients and toppings at Starbucks can turn your regular coffee into the equivilent of a Big Mac (fact), the wrong toppings or too many toppings can jack up the sugar and fat count of your Acai bowl so just be aware! And yes, I know that an Acai bowl is a much healthier choice than coffee!
Find one at your local juice bar (or get crazy and make your own) and feel good about what you're putting into your body!