Are Acai Bowls Healthy? Calories and Nutrition
They're prepared from puréed acai berries — which are fruits grown in Central and South America — and served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.
Known for their vibrant color, creamy texture, and versatility, acai bowls are touted as an antioxidant-rich superfood. On the other hand, the dish can be high in calories and added sugar, and some claim it might do more harm than good when it comes to your health.
This article takes a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of acai bowls to determine if they're healthy.
The nutrition profile of your acai bowl varies depending on the ingredients used.
That said, most bowls are high in fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients like vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.
For reference, a 6-ounce (170-gram) acai bowl may contain the following nutrients:
- Calories: 211
- Fat: 6 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 35 grams
- Sugar: 19 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
However, commercial varieties often come in much larger portions and can contain up to 600 calories and 75 grams of sugar in a single serving, depending on which toppings you select.
In addition to acai berries, acai bowls often contain other fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and bananas.
These fruits are a great source of vitamin C and manganese, both of which act as antioxidants that protect your cells against oxidative damage caused by harmful compounds known as free radicals.
They're also high in potassium, an important nutrient that regulates blood pressure levels and protects against conditions like age-related bone loss and kidney stones.
Though the nutrient profile varies depending on the ingredients used, most acai bowls are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.
Rich in Antioxidants
Acai berries are high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals to prevent damage to your cells.
Test-tube studies show that acai berries are especially high in plant compounds known as anthocyanins, including specific types like cyanidin 3-glucoside and cyanidin 3-rutinoside.
In one study, consuming acai pulp and applesauce increased levels of antioxidants in the blood in 12 healthy adults within 24 hours.
Human and animal studies suggest that acai berries could be linked to lower cholesterol levels, better brain function, and decreased colon cancer cell growth due to this antioxidant content.
Acai berries are high in antioxidants and have been associated with several health benefits in human and animal studies.
High in Sugar and Calories
Acai bowls usually contain added toppings like fruits, nuts, seeds, and granola.
While these ingredients are nutritious on their own, it's easy to go overboard with your toppings and turn a healthy snack into a high calorie indulgence.
Furthermore, acai bowls purchased from stores and restaurants are often sold in large portion sizes, sometimes containing two to three servings in a single bowl.
Eating more calories than you expend each day can contribute to weight gain over time.
What's more, commercially prepared acai bowls are high in sugar. In addition to contributing to weight gain, consuming too much added sugar can promote the development of liver problems, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to no more than 12 teaspoons for those following a 2,000-calorie diet, which is equal to about 48 grams of sugar.
Just one 6-ounce (170-gram) acai bowl packs in around 11 grams of added sugar, or about 23% of the total daily limit.
Acai bowls — especially those that are commercially prepared — are high in calories and sugar, which could contribute to weight gain and health issues like liver problems, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
How to Make Acai Bowls
One of the best ways to take advantage of the many potential health benefits of acai bowls is to make your own.
Start by blending unsweetened, frozen acai purée or acai powder with a bit of water or milk to make a base for your acai bowl.
Next, add your choices of toppings, such as sliced fruit, cacao nibs, or coconut flakes. Plus, consider adding your favorite nuts, seeds, or nut butter to boost the protein content of your bowl, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
That said, be sure to keep your toppings in moderation and limit high calorie choices if you're looking to lose weight.
You can also try blending some greens like kale or spinach into the base of your acai bowl to bump up its nutritional value even more.
Finally, remember to monitor your portion sizes to keep your intake of sugar, carbs, and calories under control.
Making your own acai bowl at home can maximize potential health benefits. Be sure to keep your toppings in moderation and monitor your portion sizes.
The Bottom Line
Acai bowls are made from acai berries and often additional fruits, then topped with ingredients like fruit, nuts, seeds, and granola.
Though they're nutrient dense and rich in antioxidants, commercial varieties are often sold in large portion sizes and may be high in added sugar and calories.
Making your own acai bowl at home can help you moderate your portion sizes and is a great way to take control of what you're putting on your plate.
If you want to prep your own acai bowl, you can find acai powder in specialty stores and online.
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