Acai Berry Antioxidants and How They Affect You
If you know anything about the nutritional value acai berries hold, then you've probably heard about their high concentration of something known as antioxidants. In fact, many people drink acai berry juice solely for the benefits of their antioxidants. But just what are antioxidants? And what purpose do they serve?
What are Antioxidants?
The terminology and scientific "lingo" behind antioxidants can undoubtedly be confusing to some so bear with me - Basically, antioxidants are molecules which inhibit the oxidation process in other molecules. When oxidation occurs, whether it's in a piece of living fruit or in our bodies, an electron or hydrogen molecule is transferred to an oxidizing element, leading to the production of potentially harmful free radicals.
There are a number foods antioxidant-rich foods available on the market today, such as pomegranates, blueberries, dark chocolate, elderberries, spinach, broccoli, cranberries and of course the acai berry just to name a few. Although the acai berry is relatively small in size, it contains a greater amount of antioxidants than most foods. Some of the most common types of antioxidants found in such foods are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
The length at which an antioxidant stays in your system varies depending on a number of different factors. Some may stay for up to two hours, while others can persist for longer or shorter. In addition, different antioxidant substances are effective against different groups of radicals.
Antioxidants vs Free Radicals
Free radicals are defined as atoms, molecules or ions with a single unpaired electron which can lead to a cell-damaging chain reaction. Without a paired electron, the molecule, or free radical, will rampage through the body in search of an additional electron to take from another molecule. Free radicals will continue on their destructive path until they find an electron to take or until they're neutralized by antioxidants.
You may not see them, but free radicals are all around us, from the air we breathe to the foods we eat. They're found in cigarette smoke, air pollutants, pesticides, animal growth hormones, automobile exhaust, chemicals in the municipal water system, x-rays and even hair and skin products we use everyday. In fact, chances are there are free radicals roaming your body right now. While small amounts of free radicals are usually taken care of by our bodies natural defenses, large amounts can produce some rather serious effects.
Dangers of Free Radicals
When a chain reaction from free radicals occurs, nearby cells are oftentimes damaged during the process. For instance, a group of radicals known as super oxides, which normally serve as microbe killers, may cause oxidation in cellular walls, shortening their overall life spans. Radicals are biologically useful, but they can also be deleterious in excess. If an individual's body is overwhelmed with free radicals, it could lead to a variety of illnesses and disease.
Scientists believe free radicals have a direct connection to cancer as well. Their relationship to cancer is based on the capability of radicals to cause damage to strands of DNA, leading to uncontrolled cellular mutations and eventually cancerour tumors. Epidemiological research has shown that individuals who consume a diet rich in natural antioxidants, such as those from fruits and vegetables, are less likely to develop cancer than those who don't.
Free radicals are thought to have roles in aging, as well as cancer. Most free radicals are controlled by enzymes that break them down or otherwise transform them to more stable, non-reactive forms. Oftentimes, the reactions occur faster than the enzymes can cope, so cells age and deteriorate. This is thought to be the mechanism of aging. To counteract these radicals, antioxidants are used. Antioxidants are able to inhibit the oxidative reactions caused by radicals, thus the term “antioxidant”. In theory, antioxidants can prevent cellular damage and slow or prevent aging.
Why Antioxidants Matter
Free radicals must be controlled within the body. Without antioxidants, the body will theoretically age faster and fall sick more often. Some of the illnesses believed to be related to the deleterious effects of radicals are atherosclerosis, cancer, liver damage, emphysema, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, deafness and schizophrenia. While scientific studies are still being conducted to confirm these theories, there's already some supporting evidence. Unless you want to take that unnecessary risk with your health, it's recommended that you supply your body with an adequate amount of antioxidants.
The acai berry is more than just a tasty berry, it is a great source of antioxidants and other nutrients. Whether you enjoy the berry for its taste or health benefits, you can rest assured knowing you're getting a good dose of antioxidants when you consume it.
Acai Berry Antioxidant Content
Because acai berries spoil very quickly after being picked, they are rarely sold outside production areas as whole fruit. More often than not, they are freeze-dried and powdered. Doing so allows the nutrients and antioxidants to remain preserved, so they can be properly shipped worldwide. From this powder, companies can create juices, blends, and supplements.
The fat content in acai berries is distributed among oleic acid, palmitic acid, sitosterols and linoleic acid. Other substances found in the fruit are polyphenols, such as vanillic acid, syringic acid, procatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and ferulic acid. These perform many functions in the body, ranging from increasing omega-3 fatty acid absorption to potentially improving hair quality. Also, laboratory tests have shown that it contains significant amounts of iron, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, and several amino acids.
There are two types of acai berries: the white variety and purple (the most common). The white type showed no antioxidant activity when tested, whereas the purple variety, the kind most often used, showed significant reactions. These berries work very well against peroxyl radicals, and well against peroxynitrite. Additionally, extracts from the seeds of the purple variety have shown better antioxidant abilities against peroxynitrits and hydroxyl radicals than the pulp.
Acai berries contain antioxidants like anthocyanins, and flavonoid-like compounds such as orientin, homoorientin, scoparin, deoxyhexose, taxifolin, and isovitexin. Proanthocyanidins and small amounts of resveratrol have also been found. These compounds are known for their antioxidant capabilities.