Here’s the problem with food marketing today – as long as there’s at least one key ingredient with some kind of health benefit, then a dish gets marketed as “healthy.” And then consumers wonder why they aren’t losing weight when they’re eating so “healthy.”
Look, it’s like sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving. Here, you have this wonderful resistant starch, bursting with antioxidants, like beta-carotene and vitamin C. But then the recipe ultimately calls for mountains of sugar, topped by equally sugary marshmallows. Now, we can’t call that a healthy dish, and most of you wouldn’t.
But there are some dishes out there where we know a lot less about the ingredients, and so we blindly follow the “health trend.”
One of those foods is Acai Bowls.
It’s has been touted as being … Vegan! Gluten-free! Anti-Aging! Energy Boosting! A Weight Loss Secret! The New Superfood! And perhaps worst of all – The World’s Healthiest Breakfast!
Why isn’t anyone talking about how one acai bowl can contain 50g of sugar!
Which, incidentally, would take around two-and-a-half hours of non-stop walking to burn off.1
Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
What Is Acai?
Acai (pronounced ah-Sigh-ee) is a blueberry-like berry that originated in the Amazon River Delta in South America. There, it’s been a solid staple in the diet of the local river tribes for centuries, commonly eaten with fish or game, or as a kind of soup. But until around 18 years ago, no one outside of Brazil (who started serving it beachside as a frozen smoothie bowl in the 1990s) knew much about the berry. That is, until a couple of business-savvy Californians decided to export it to the US, marketing it as a “superfruit.” It probably didn’t help that most equated it with the mysterious, natural environment of the Amazon.2
But do any of its claims – that it reduces cholesterol, is packed with anti-aging antioxidants, and is a cure for everything from ADD to arthritis to erectile dysfunction – have any scientific backing?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there’s no definitive scientific evidence to support the use of acai for any health-related purpose, and the Federal Trade Commission now takes action against companies that market acai deceptively. However, acai (like many fruits and vegetables) has been shown to have an antioxidant effect.3
So, what we can take from this? Well, acai berries are quite possibly a truly wonderful antioxidant. But just remember, so are blueberries, cranberries, and pecans. And eating a huge serving of them isn’t going to suddenly cure all your health woes.
Now, let’s take a look at that acai bowl …
What’s in an acai bowl?
An acai bowl has been described as a smoothie that you eat in a bowl, and that’s a pretty good description.
Though recipes differ slightly, the classic bowl generally contains around:
- 100g of frozen acai puree
- 1 banana
- ½ cup of blueberries
- Additional banana/berries/granola/coconut/nuts to top
Now that looks pretty simple – and healthy – to the naked eye. It’s just fruit, right? And, Dr. Gundry is a big believer in polyphenol-rich antioxidant fruits, such as dark berries like blueberry and acai. So, what’s the issue? Well, if you’re an avid fan of Dr.Gundry you’ll understand why this is not a good thing.
One of Dr. Gundry’s main mantras is:
It’s absolutely okay to enjoy a modest amount of IN-SEASON fruit, as you might with your favorite candy, but fruit is full of sugar. It may be deemed a “natural sugar” by some but ALL sugar is natural – sugar comes from sugar cane, which is a plant. “Natural” should never be automatically equated with “healthy.” Fruit was never eaten by our ancestors in the insane quantities that we eat it today.
An acai smoothie bowl full of 100g of acai berries, a half cup of blueberries, a whole banana, plus sugar-rich honey and granola equates to … A SUGAR BOMB. As we saw above, the average acai bowl contains 50 grams of sugar. That’s around 12.5 teaspoons of sugar for breakfast. In comparison, a buttery croissant pastry has just 6g of sugar. Ironically, you’re probably avoiding those to watch your weight.4
So, aside from the polyphenol antioxidant benefits that dark berries like blueberries and acai berries provide, an acai bowl is quite simply, a sugar bowl.
A Healthy Start
Learn More About Sugar:
8 High Sugar Fruits to BAN (plus, which fruit to eat instead)
Why Fructose Is Poison (and why a lot of fruit isn’t healthy)
Sugar: How To Spot The Master of Disguise (alternative names for sugar)