All Woman

Açaí berries: Superfruit on local scene

BY CANDIECE KNIGHT

Monday, June 24, 2019

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NOW more than ever, Jamaicans are paying keen attention to the types of food they consume. After all, a healthy diet is crucial to maintaining good health.

Thanks to two adventurous locals, Jamaicans now have another rich item for their palates — the açaí (pronounced 'ah-sigh') berry.

Açaí berries are small, dark-red fruits from the açaí palm tree, which is native to Central and South America. Mark Wright and Monique Thomas came across the nutritious berry while travelling, and thought it was too good a fruit for it not to be in Jamaica.

“Abroad this is a very popular, healthy yet delicious meal, that, honestly, you never get tired of,” Thomas, who co-founded the pop-up meal stand Dream Bowls with Wright, told All Woman. “When we came back to Jamaica, we really missed it. So we thought, why not bring it down and share the love with the Jamaican people?”

Thomas shared that the berries are small, but flavourful and rich with nutrients.

“They actually contain very little sugar, but have a rich, almost tart flavour. When blended with other fruits, they still taste rich but a lot sweeter,” she said.

Thomas and her business partner use açaí as a constant in their bowls, where they mix and match either an açaí pulp or the berries themselves, with other nutrient-dense foods for complete meals.

“We wanted to offer something both healthy and incredibly delicious to the people of Jamaica. You know us Jamaicans love our sweet treats! Our hope is to get people to move in a healthier route when it comes to sweet treats; it's the best of both worlds,” she reasoned.

She boasted of the numerous health benefits of the açaí.

“The berries are nutrient-dense, containing anthocyanin, chromium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, calcium, and fibre,” she said. “They are also high in antioxidants and well absorbed by the gut.”

Registered nutritionist Shannon Grant confirmed with All Woman that the açaí is indeed a nutrient powerhouse.

“It is known as a superfruit because of its richness in nutrients such as amino acids, minerals and micronutrients,” the nutritionist explained. “Its benefits include helping to maintain a healthy heart through the presence of the fatty acids, aiding in natural weight loss, and boosting the immune system. Studies have also shown that there are some anti-ageing properties linked to the consumption of açaí berries.”

When comparing it to a popular local fruit of about the same size — the cherry — Grant said the açaí outweighs it in the number of antioxidants it contains, 10 times over.

“Açaí berries are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids,” Grant added. “Traditional uses for açaí fruit included treatment for diarrhoea, ulcers, alleviating parasitic infections, and haemorrhages.”

Since starting Dream Bowls a few months ago, the duo have been getting positive feedback about the açaí from Jamaicans.

“'Wow!' is what we normally hear after they get their first spoonful,” Thomas beamed. “They have one of two reactions. If they are unfamiliar, it's generally one of surprise. I think sometimes we don't expect raw, healthy foods to taste so rich and fulfilling. The other reaction we get is one of nostalgia. Many have said it brought them back to Brazil (where açaí originated) and that leaves us speechless.”

Ready to try the açaí? Dream Bowls is currently a pop-up food stand, so you have to stay tuned to their Instagram page (@dreambowlsja) to know when they will pop up at a location close to you.


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