Acai, pronounced ah-sigh-ee, is a berry that grows on acai palm trees. Acai is known for its high antioxidant content and has become popular in the U.S. as the essential ingredient in acai bowls (frozen blends that typically include acai, banana, and other fruits, and are topped with various toppings like fresh fruit, coconut flakes, and granola).
History of the Acai Bowl
Acai grows in Central and South America, and has been eaten for centuries. Historically, many in the Amazon ate acai daily, often alongside other foods, including as a part of savory meals. It wasn’t until travelers brought Acai from Northern Brazil to the cities of Southern Brazil in the 1970’s that acai bowls came into existence. Some say the bowls were first popularized by Carlos Grazie, founder of Brazilian Jiujitsu, as a way to fuel his trainees. Others say the bowls first became popular among surfers, who would eat the cold bowls as a way to gain energy and cool down in the hot Brazilian sun. Either way, the bowls began as a delicious way for athletes to fuel their workouts, or to recover from them. Acai bowls later started appearing in other warm areas with surfing communities, like Hawaii and California; you can now find acai bowls at juice bars and health focused restaurants in many cities throughout the U.S. We’re proud to have four different types of acai bowl on the Thirst Menu!
Acai, which is often referred to as a “superfood” is high in antioxidants and contains fiber and healthful fats. Some studies also suggest that consumption of acai may help boost immunity, help control blood sugar, and support heart health.
Questions You’ve Been Asking:
- Are acai bowls vegan?
- Great question! The answer is, it depends. Like everything at Thirst, our acai bowls are vegan (and gluten-free), and it’s easy to make a vegan acai bowl. However, some restaurants and cafes (including traditional Brazilian ones) blend the acai with dairy (milk or yogurt), pour cream on top of the blend, or include honey as a sweetener. Keep in mind that even if the base is vegan, not all cafes use vegan granola. If you aren’t sure about the ingredients and follow a vegan diet, always be sure to ask!
- Are acai bowls healthy?
- Yes! Acai bowls are packed with beneficial nutrients, and make a great snack or meal. If you are concerned about limiting your calories, make sure your bowl is made with an unsweetened nut milk as a base, and that you don’t overdo it on the toppings.
- What does acai look like?
- Acai berries are small, blue berries that grow in clusters on acai palm trees. You won’t see fresh acai in the U.S. It grows primarily subtropical regions of Central and South America and must be eaten or frozen within 24 hours of harvest. If you are looking for acai in your grocery store, look in the frozen fruits section. You’ll likely find acai in single-serve frozen packs.
- Does powdered acai contain the same benefits as frozen acai? What about acai juice?
- The most healthful form of acai that you’ll find in the U.S. is the frozen form. Powdered acai contains antioxidants, but lacks the fiber and healthful fats of frozen acai. And any acai juice you’ll find here has been pasteurized (heated at extremely high temperatures); this process kills bacteria, but also destroys many of the healthful enzymes in the juice.
Make Your Own Acai Bowl!
Want to make your own acai bowl? These bowls are easy and fun to make in your home blender. A basic recipe follows, but feel free to experiment!
- ¾ Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
- ½ Frozen Banana
- 1 Frozen Pack Acai (you can purchase Sambazon brand at many Whole Food markets)
- ½ Cup Blueberries
- Top With:
- Coconut Flakes
- Cacao Nibs
- Fresh Strawberries
Curious about acai? Come try a Peanut Butter Acai Bowl at Thirst today or stay tuned for our next Smoothie Bowl Social!