There are so many natural remedies available in nature that have yet to be explored. Each day, some new fruit, berry or tree leaf is touted as a miracle cure for….well…for something. Some of these natural remedies are said to cure cancer, others to propel weight loss, still more to reverse heart disease. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction when deciding which of these magic ingredients you should buy in the form of supplements or actual food.
Recently, a berry that has an extremely interesting name that very few people even know how to pronounce, has swept the market as the next, great, cure-all. The claims about this berry include its ability to help you lose weight, reverse heart disease, reduce your risk of cancer, and improve your skin. Unlike some fruits and vegetables that enter our line of vision due simply to convincing marketing, this berry actually has some real, proven health benefits. So, what’s the berry in question? The acai berry.
While the health benefits of the acai berry are rumored to be endless, let’s focus on those that have been proved. Acai berries have two components within them that help them create a healthy part of your diet. Those two elements are anthocynanins and flavonoids. These two components are considered antioxidants and can be very helpful in the fight against cancer.
Cancer is a disease caused by damaged cells. Some cells are damaged because they are altered by free radicals. So, what are free radicals? They are cells that roam your body and are missing one of the electrons they need to be stable, normal cells. This missing electron must be replaced, so they attempt to steal it from a healthy cell. When they do, your healthy cell breaks down and has to find an electron from another cell. The more free radicals you have, the more likely you are to develop cancer.
Antioxidants work as spare electrons to the free radicals. They allow the free radicals to bond to them rather than search out and destroy a healthy cell. Because this stops the proliferation of damaged cells, it reduces your risk of developing cancer.
Now that you understand the health benefits of acai berry, you might be wondering if eating those berries are the only way of scoring some antioxidants. Luckily, it is not. The anthocynanins in acai berries is also present in other blue, red or purple veggies and fruits. Grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, cranberries and other fruits and vegetables that are blue/red/purple in color have antioxidants as well.
Some studies show that the pulp of an acai berry is higher in antioxidants than other fruits or vegetables in the above mentioned color palate. As yet, these studies have not been vetted, so it is not possible to know whether or not they are correct.
Before adding acai berries to your diet, make sure to visit with your primary care physician and find out his or her opinion. In addition to weighing in on what foods you should eat to help avoid cancer, he or she may have some advice about other things you can do to help lower your risk of cancer.
Remember, if you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer, or have even found some suspicious lumps, you need continued treatment from your oncologist. Acai berries do have a health benefit, but that does not mean they are a miracle cure. No studies have found that acai berries or any other antioxidants have the power to reverse cancer, so you should not assume that you can stop or avoid cancer treatment by consuming them.
Jackie Hogan, MS, RD is a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She is a member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND-LAD) and the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Jackie has been featured on Women’s Health, Fitness Magazine, Women’s Fitness, and Men’s Fitness magazine.