You've probably seen them pop up on your Instagram feed at some point, but what exactly is an açaí bowl? An açaí bowl (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is a dish made of frozen açaí berries, blended into a puree, and topped with oatmeal, granola, fresh fruit, cacao nibs, and anything else you'd want to put on it. Though açaí bowls sound an awful lot like smoothie bowls, there is actually a distinct difference between the two.
Açaí bowls are traditionally made to be thick, with the consistency of a sorbet or frozen yogurt. Smoothie bowls, on the other hand, are a lot creamier. Take a smoothie, put it in a bowl. Voila: you have a smoothie bowl.
Another difference between an açaí bowl and a smoothie bowl are the ingredients. Obviously, the base of an açaí bowl is made with açaí puree. Smoothie bowls, however, allow much more creative freedom; the base can honestly be anything you want.
Though it may seem like açaí bowls have only recently become popular in the U.S. in the past few years, they have actually been part of Brazilian culture for a really long time. For people who live in Brazil or the Amazonian basin, açaí is a vital part of the diet. Originally, people ate their açaí berry pulp unsweetened with manioc and fish. Nowadays, açaí bowls are made with fruits like bananas and strawberries.
Açaí bowls first started to gain popularity outside of Brazil in the 1980s when Brazilian Jujitsu founder, Carlos Gracie, started his own diet - aptly named the Gracie Diet. The Gracie Diet heavily incorporated açaí bowls to maximize the strength of his fighters. The trend caught on fairly quick as people started noticing these big, hunky jujitsu fighters eating nothing but açaí bowls all the time. The popularity of the bowls eventually migrated north to the United States and have become a beloved nutritious and delicious treat.
Açaí berries have a reputation for being a superfood, which is true for the record. Açaí berries are full of nutrients. They contain important minerals such as chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. They are also unique in that they are high in fat and low in sugar. Açaí berries are also loaded with antioxidants (three times the amount found in blueberries), which help neutralize the potentially damaging free radicals that roam throughout the body. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Açaí berries also help reduce inflammation and increase brain function.
While it's true that there are a ton of benefits to eating açaí berries and other foods you may put into your bowl (like nut butter, almond milk, nuts, fruits, and seeds), there's one thing you need to consider before eating an açaí bowl - they're very high in sugar. Açaí bowls can have up to 50 grams of sugar, which is double the recommended amount of sugar per day for women. It's honestly insane, considering that açaí bowls are generally marketed as a healthy food. If you order a bowl from a restaurant or smoothie shop, it could be even higher! According to Stack, an Açaí Primo Bowl from Jamba Juice contains 67 grams of sugar and an Ultimate Açaí Bowl from Juice It Up contains 74 grams of sugar!
Eating an açaí bowl should be a nice treat every now and then, not something you eat every day. However, if you are going to indulge in one and you don't want it to be loaded with sugar, you can always make one at home!
Making an açaí bowl at home is actually pretty easy! All you really need is frozen açaí puree, a blender, your favorite fruit, and whatever toppings you want to finish it off with. Here's a few of our favorite recipes: