Diet and Nutrition

What Is an Acai Bowl?

What Is an Acai Bowl?

What is acai?

Acai is the primary ingredient in acai bowl recipes. Acai is the fruit of the acai palm. It is a small grape-like fruit, with thin deep purple pulp surrounding a single large seed; the seed makes up 80% of the fruit. Acai fruit is sweet in nature. Acai palm grows in the jungles of South America, and the fruit is used as food for native tribes in the region. The pulp of acai palm fruit is also a popular ingredient for beverages and smoothies in Brazil.

Acai became very popular after studies showed it has some weight loss and anti-aging effects. The pulp of the fruit is rich in antioxidants, and research shows that it surpasses the amounts seen in cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and other berries. It is considered a super food and is eaten for its health benefits.

Because of its effects, acai is often used to make supplements. Acai is purported to be helpful in losing weight, improving glow and appearance of the skin, and is said to be beneficial for diabetes, heart disease, and improving sexual performance in men. You can purchase acai powder, tablets, pills, or shakes.

Regarding nutrition value, acai in itself is very low in calories. It is rich in vitamin A, and a 200-gram serving of pure juice contains as much as 1,500 IU. Vitamin A is needed for maintenance of the immune system, vision, proper growth of cells in the body, and good functioning of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and gonads. On a pound per pound basis, Acai contains more vitamin A than other sources such as eggs, squash, dairy, and fortified cereals.

Acai contains significant quantities of polyphenol, which may explain its other nutritional merits. It packs serious quantities of antioxidants and fatty acids. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage caused by oxygen radicals; cells have crucial components inside, and damage by oxygen radicals can cause abnormal functioning or even premature death. There are studies showing that acai may help protect cells from damage, which can be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of the fruit.

Interestingly, Acai pulp contains fatty acids, albeit in far smaller quantities compared to avocado. Some of its specific polyphenols are vanillic acid, syringic acid, and ferulic acid, and many others. The presence of polyphenols may make acai helpful in reducing inflammation and may help protect the heart.

There is also some evidence that acai may stop the growth of certain cancer cell lines, but it has only occurred in laboratory settings so far. There are animal studies that showed acai berry extract helped reduce the incidence of inflammation and cancerous changes when the presence of triggers or inducing factors. There are no studies like this on humans to date.

Acai for weight loss

A lot of people believe in taking acai to burn belly fat or induce fat loss. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of evidence supporting the use of acai pulp or acai supplements for weight loss or reduction of body fat. To date, there are no studies proving that acai fruit or its products worked equally or better than weight loss pills.

However, there are available studies showing that taking acai for several weeks caused a reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing levels of good cholesterol.

There are also studies showing that taking acai for a long period of time also increased levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream, reduced markers of muscle damage caused by exercise, and lowered risk of metabolic syndrome (a condition often termed as pre-diabetes, marked by elevated blood sugar, hypertension, and obesity).

So that means that acai does have health benefits. If you want to experience the benefits of acai fruit, you may have to take the fresh fruit or supplements for at least 6 weeks, or a few months. You have to take acai every day, but often, taking supplements or fresh fruit repeatedly can be tiresome. This is how many have turned to the acai bowl. 

What is an acai bowl?

An acai bowl is simply a mix of acai blended with other fruits and other ingredients, and sometimes dairy, in a bowl. 

Acai bowls are relatively new in the United States and are popular since they help people consume more acai in a fun and creative way. It could have started as a spinoff of a Brazilian dish called Açaí na tigela, which is a smoothie made from frozen or mashed acai pulp garnished with bananas, granola or other fruits, and topped with guarana syrup. In some places in Brazil, açaí na tigela is eaten with salty food such as dried fish or cassava.

Obviously, you cannot use acai supplements to make an acai bowl. You can use acai powder, the fruit, or the pulp. Some stores sell frozen pulp.

If prepared healthily in terms of using fresh fruits and other wholesome ingredients, acai bowls are incredibly healthy. The health benefits of the fruit probably made acai bowls very popular.

The acai fruit has a pleasant taste, like strawberries or blueberries, but sweeter. Combining it with other fruits makes a very delicious treat. Add cereal such as bran or oatmeal, and you made yourself a hearty superfood breakfast.

Acai bowl recipes

To make an acai bowl is very simple. All you need to do is put a bunch of fruits and acai in a bowl, frozen or fresh. You might start by making traditional Açaí na tigela, which only requires mashed acai fruit pulp (frozen or fresh), banana, and granola.

If you are not living in Brazil, chances are you can get acai fruit pulp only in frozen puree form. Frozen acai is as good as fresh, and you can put everything in a food processor to make your acai bowl a smooth texture. While in the food processor, you can add fruits such as banana, frozen berries, or milk (dairy, soy, or almond) for better consistency. For best results, the puree should be blended until thick, so it is easily scooped out and eaten. 

Watch the video below for our take on a simple acai bowl with matcha and flaxseed. You can find the recipe under the video.

With the matcha flax acai bowl, you can incorporate your favorite energy-boosting supplements in one dish. You'll notice the flavor is slightly earthy yet very well-rounded.

Matcha flax acai bowl

You'll need:

  • 1 1/2 C frozen mixed berries
  • 1 tsp unsweetened matcha powder
  • 1 tsp unsweetened acai powder
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 - 1/2 C almond milk
  • 1 tbsp raw honey

Blend everything together, adding more milk as needed. Pour into a bowl, and top with fresh berries, banana, unsweetened granola, and coconut shavings.

Other acai bowl recipes

Rainbow acai bowl

This recipe makes use of different berries along with acai to deliver an excellent dose of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins!

It only takes 15 minutes to make from start to finish:

  • 100 g pureed acai
  • Half of a banana
  • Half cup strawberries
  • Half cup blueberries
  • Half cup milk of your choice

Blend them together to make the puree base, and put in a bowl. For best results, add one ingredient at a time and use low speed to break up large chunks. Once no large chunks remain, use high speed to blend and homogenize the mix together.

Here are the ingredients for the topping:

  • ¼ cup each of blueberries, strawberries, banana, and granola
  • ¼ cup chopped pineapples or mango
  • ½ cup kiwi
  • Honey, for drizzling

Arrange the fruits in the bowl with puree. To make the rainbow effect, arrange fruits by color in stripes. Sprinkle with granola and honey before serving.

Acai bowl with kale

This recipe is different because it uses kale and spinach that makes the puree green in color, but it can still be dessert. This is a great recipe to make anyone eat veggies. Make sure to use fresh vegetables only. It can be done within 15 minutes.

Here is the recipe for the green puree:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup kale
  • Half of a banana
  • 100-gram acai puree
  • ½ cup mango chunks
  • ½ cup unsweetened milk (almond, coconut, or dairy)

Like before, add one ingredient at a time and blend at low speed to break up chunks. Once all the ingredients are in and there are no chunks, blend at high speed until they come together. Put the blend in a bowl and top with the following:

  • Half of a banana
  • ¼ cup pineapple chunks
  • ¼ cup granola
  • Two spoons of desiccated coconut
  • Honey for drizzling

Simply add the toppings to the bowl, and serve right away. 

Peanut butter acai bowl

This recipe comes with a twist with the addition of peanut butter. It is surprisingly delicious, and tastes remarkably like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Here is the recipe for the protein-rich base mix:

  • 100-gram pack acai puree
  • Half banana
  • ½ cup frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 1 ½ spoons of natural unsalted peanut butter
  • A spoon of unsweetened cocoa powder

Blend the ingredients together. It will really help if you add milk gradually instead of putting all at once. Mix at high speed once the ingredients have come together.

Put the mix in the bowl and top with the following:

  • Half of a banana
  • ¼ cup granola
  • Two spoonfuls shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ spoons natural unsalted peanut butter
  • A spoonful of cocoa nibs
  • Honey for drizzling

Acai bowl with oats

This is a good breakfast because it contains oats, making it very filling. This recipe uses acai powder. All you have to do is add all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Here are the ingredients:

  • A cup of milk of your choice
  • One scoop acai powder
  • One scoop soaked oatmeal
  • ¼ cup mixed berries
  • 2 spoons pomegranate seeds

Acai bowl with beets

The beets in this recipe pair well with the tartness of the berries. This recipe is free from grains and can be made ahead. Try making it at night, so you will have an instant breakfast in the morning, or take it to work. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 large date, soaked in warm water until soft and then chopped
  • 100 grams acai puree
  • ½ cup mixed berries
  • ½ cup milk or coconut milk
  • Two Brazil nuts 
  • 1 small raw beet, peeled and chopped (or grated)
  • 1 spoonful chia seeds
  • 1 spoonful coconut flakes
  • 1 spoonful hemp seeds
  • Sliced fresh fruit or berries of choice

Put the chopped date, acai, mixed berries, milk, brazil nuts, beets, and chia seeds in the food processor and blend until smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides of the container, so everything will be blended. Blend until thick and smooth, and place in a tall glass or bowl. Top with coconut flakes, hemp seeds, sliced fruit or berries and serve right away.

Banana acai bowl

This classic acai bowl makes use of bananas and whole berries. Furthermore, you can put any topping of your choice. If you like the combination of bananas and chocolate, you can add cocoa nibs to this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packs 100 g frozen acai puree
  • 1/3 cup milk of your choice
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 1 large banana
  • ¼ cup frozen blueberries
  • Toppings of choice, such as goji berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, fresh berries, or nuts

In a blender, blend acai puree banana, blueberries with coconut milk and milk. You have to blend until the mix becomes thick. Chill a large bowl, and put the puree mix in. Add the toppings, and serve right away.

Soy acai bowl

This acai bowl is a good choice if you have soy milk lying around, but you can use milk or almond milk as well. Like the rest of the recipes, blend the mix first and then add toppings. It serves one, and can be prepared in less than 15 minutes:

  • 100-gram packet of acai puree
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • ½ cup mixed frozen berries
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • Honey for drizzling

Blend all the ingredients except banana and honey until thick. Put the mix into a chilled bowl and top with bananas and honey, and then serve.

Mango acai bowl recipe

Mangoes and acai go well together. This recipe serves two normal sized people or one ravenous person. This recipe also includes maca, which they say may improve libido. Here is the recipe:

  • 1 pack of acai puree
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen
  • ½ cup strawberries
  • ½ cup chopped mango
  • 2 spoonfuls of cocoa powder
  • 1 spoon maca root powder
  • 2/3 cup coconut water

Simply blend everything together and top with more banana, mangoes, mixed berries, granola, cacao nibs, or coconut chips. Serve right away.

Pumpkin acai bowl

This recipe uses acai fruit powder. Pumpkins surprisingly taste well with acai in this recipe. It also packs fiber and vitamin A.

For an additional twist, this recipe also calls for maca root powder:

  • 1 tsp. acai powder
  • A cup of mixed berries
  • Two bananas
  • 1 ½ cups of coconut water
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 spoonful of maca root powder

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until thick. You can also add in a few ice cubes for a thicker texture. Chill and serve.

Protein powder acai bowl

You might have whey or protein powder lying around collecting dust.

Break the protein powder open to try this recipe:

  • One 100 gram pack acai puree
  • 1/3 cup berries of choice
  • ½ cup chopped frozen bananas
  • 2 spoonfuls whey or protein powder
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 spoon of coconut butter (optional)

Blend everything together until smooth and thick. Transfer mix in a chilled bowl and garnish with berries, more bananas, or coconut chips.

Acai bowl in a jar

This bowl-in-a-jar recipe is very convenient. Make it at home and bring it to work and eat during lunch or as a snack. This recipe is dairy-free, making it suitable to those with lactose intolerance.

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • 1 pack 100-gram acai puree
  • 1 sliced banana
  • ½ cup strawberries
  • ½ blueberries
  • 2/3 cup coconut water
  • 1 spoon maca

In a large mason jar, first put solid ingredients first (bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and maca powder) and then followed by coco water. Seal and refrigerate, or eat right away.

Acai bowl calories

You might be concerned about the calories in acai bowls. Making acai bowls the low-calorie way is sometimes necessary if you are looking to lose weight or if you have diabetes.

Acai itself does not contain a lot of calories. The calories in the acai bowl really depend on the ingredients you put in. If you add generous quantities of milk, cream, honey, or milk chocolate, don’t expect your acai bowl to help you lose weight.

It is obvious that some of the ingredients used in the above-mentioned recipes pack a lot of calories. Ingredients such as coconut butter, desiccated coconut, honey, nuts, and yogurt can pack more than 200 calories per 100 grams.
You can cut many calories by using substitutes with fewer calories or by omitting them.

You can substitute avocado slices for coconut butter and shredded coconut, which can save you around 80 calories per cup. You can use buttermilk or natural unflavored yogurt in place of sweetened yogurt or cream. If the recipe calls for dark chocolate (100 grams has 546 calories), you can substitute cocoa nibs or cocoa powder that has only 464 and 228 calories, respectively, at the same weight.

If you choose calories smartly, you don't have to worry about packing unnecessary calories into your acai bowl. However, try to keep just one source of protein in your acai bowl so it fills you up.