THE SCOOP ON ACAI BOWLS


By Emily Ward

            If you follow any health nut on social media, you’ve probably seen the snapchat story or the Instagram post about their love for acai bowls.  They are currently one of the biggest trends in health foods and the craze is well deserved.  But what’s so great about them? Isn’t it just a regular old smoothie put in a bowl and eaten with a spoon?  Not exactly!  Acai bowls have a wider variety of health benefits than regular smoothies, and their thicker texture makes them take more like ice-cream.

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First off, let’s talk about what exactly acai is.  Harvested in South America from a palm tree, an acai berry looks like a cross between a grape and a blueberry.  It contains large amounts of essential micronutrients, such as iron, calcium, and vitamin A, while also being low in sugar and high in fiber.  Acai is also full of amino acids and essential fatty acids, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods out there.  One of its most remarkable nutritional attributes is its high level of antioxidant activity.  Its antioxidant power is found to be the highest among all fruits and vegetables, which is the reason it is used for such a wide variety of health problems.  These properties are why acai is considered a superfood.

            Now that we know the health benefits, let’s consider why acai bowls are eaten with a spoon and not just sipped like a smoothie.  Unlike the liquid consistency of a regular smoothie, an acai bowl should have a thicker, scoopable consistency.  This is typically achieved by using a variety of fruits, such as bananas, strawberries and blueberries, that are blended to a pureed consistency and mixed with some kind of milk along with pureed acai.  If a super thick, ice-cream like consistency is desired, some form of nut butter is blended as well.  Eating your bowl with a spoon instead of slurping it through a straw can also help you feel more satisfied and keep you full longer, as it requires you to consume it slower and allowing your body to have time to tell you when you’re full. 

            Not only does the acai and fruit components of the bowl contain a wide variety of health and nutritional benefits, but the toppings added to the bowl are also normally nutrient dense and beneficial to the body.  Typical toppings include hemp granola, solid fresh fruits, nut butters, agave nectar, coconut, honey, chia seeds, and dark chocolate.  These toppings can add more nutrients to the bowl, as well as adding to the texture and flavor, making it more beneficial and enjoyable for you.

            Acai bowls can easily be made at home with a blender and the right ingredients, but they are also served at smoothie bars across the country.  Harrisonburg has its own acai bowl place, inside the Shenandoah Bicycle Company on South Main Street there is a smoothie bar that serves acai bowls.  It’s quickly becoming one of the hot spots for JMU students and Harrisonburg residents, and its menu includes a wide variety of options, including a build your own bowl option.

            Basically, acai bowls are not only delicious, but they are super nutritious too.  They taste like ice-cream, but contain a huge variety of micronutrients and macronutrients, and who doesn’t want ice-cream with nutrients?! Go to the store, pick up some acai and your favorite fruit, get your blender ready, and add acai bowls to your diet!

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References:

(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/15/acai-bowls-recipe_n_5147465.html

(2) http://www.shenandoahbicycle.com/about/pulp-pg67.htm

(3) http://foodfacts.mercola.com/acai.html

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