Ahh, cocoa...ahh, berry ... two favorite flavors meld together in the complex, yet tantalizing tropical tang of the tiny açaí berry. And with a fatty acid complex that resembles olive oil, this bright purple powerhouse doesn't just offer splendid gastronomy. Hailing from the Amazon's "tree of life," açaí (ahh-sigh-ee) touts 10 times the antioxidants of red grapes, plus an ideal combination of essential amino acids and trace minerals.
Açaí's lush hue confirms its corresponding anthocyanin-rich heritage that surpasses other antioxidant-laden berries, such as blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries. And with an ORAC rating that's off the charts (610 versus cranberry's 94 and blueberry's 92), the boost doesn't stop there. Açaí packs vital fatty acids, fiber, phytosterols, and vitamins C and E into one potent package.
Did You Know?
Brazilian açaí seeds are sometimes dyed or left in their natural state and used as beads for jewelry.
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Açaí's list of health benefits is one of the longest and most extensive of any food. From promoting weight loss to increasing energy to boosting the immune system, açaí has been touted as a rejuvenator for skin, memory, and sex drive. Scientific studies have recently confirmed açaí's appealing fatty acid profile, plus its mineral, tannin, polyphenol, anthocyanin and antioxidant content and capacity.
Freeze-dried, puréed in smoothies, powdered in supplements and beauty products-açaí seems to be everywhere. But as with all things popular, read labels carefully to detect weak imposters-especially combos with little actual açaí. The fresh berries are extremely perishable and susceptible to mishandling, so confirm the company harvests and processes within 24 hours for best quality. Look for 100 percent açaí pulp in the refrigerated section, and then try our easy recipes for a super dessert or beverage sensation.
Mini Tofu Cheesecakes with Açaí-Strawberry SauceMakes 2 mini cheesecakes
These delightful dairy-free desserts-topped with antioxidant powerhouse açaí-provide a satisfying ending to any meal.
1 cup açaí purée
1 cup strawberries, frozen or fresh
1 tsp. agave nectar
1½ tsp. plain gelatin
6 whole-grain graham crackers
1 Tbs. agave nectar
1 Tbs. canola oil
1 16-oz. pkg. silken tofu, drained
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. arrowroot flour
2 Tbs. agave nectar
½ tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2 egg substitutes, such as Ener-G egg replacer
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray 2 mini (4½-inch) springform pans with cooking spray, and set aside.
- To make Açaí-Strawberry Sauce: place açaí purée, strawberries, and agave nectar into blender, and purée until creamy, about 15 to 20 seconds, scraping sides of blender, if necessary.
- Sprinkle gelatin on top of ½ cup water in small saucepan, and let set 1 minute. Warm over medium heat about 2 minutes, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour mixture into blender with açaí-strawberry mixture, and purée 5 seconds. Pour into serving bowl, and chill at least 2 hours.
- To prepare Crust: Place graham crackers in food processor, and pulse until crumbly, about 15 seconds. Add agave nectar, oil, and salt, and process several more times until mixed. Divide evenly, and press into prepared springform pans; set aside.
- To make Tofu Cheesecake: Place tofu, lemon juice, arrowroot flour, agave nectar, vanilla, and salt in blender, and purée until creamy and smooth, about 20 seconds, scraping sides halfway through. Whip egg substitute with electric mixer until very stiff (about 2 to 3 minutes), and then fold into blended tofu mixture. Pour tofu mixture into prepared crusts. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and chill at least 2 hours. Remove from pans, slice, and serve with Açaí-Strawberry Sauce.
PER SERVING: 306 CAL; 9G PROT; 11 G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT FAT); 41G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 243 MG SOD; 4 G FIBER; 22 G SUGARS
Açaí Iced Tea Serves 2
Açaí combined with tea makes a delicious and refreshing alternative to red wine. It's especially good with light, summery dishes.
1 cup boiling water
1 orange pekoe tea bag
½ cup cold water
1 cup açaí juice
- Pour boiling water over tea bag, and steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bag, add cold water, and cool tea to room temperature.
- Combine tea and Açaí juice in small pitcher. Refrigerate until well chilled.
PER SERVING: 51 CAL; 1 G PROT; 0 G TOTAL FAT (0 G SAT FAT); 12 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 8 MG SOD; 1 G FIBER; 10 G SUGARS