Acai Pills, Acai Capsules, and Acai Powders all fit into the broad category of Acai Supplements. They are the most convenient way to get all the benefits of acai berry , but proper care must be taken in the harvesting and processing. Some things to look for are:
- Freeze-Dried Acai Berry. Like all fruit, heat is the enemy and destroys much of the nutritional value. Freeze-drying does not use heat so is by far the superior method for retaining the benefits of the acai berry.
- Avoid Acai Berry Extracts. Extracts can use only a portion of the pulp and skin. However, the benefits of Acai come from the whole fruit. Extracts can have significantly less nutrients than pure, freeze dried products.
- Avoid Spray & Drum Dried Acai Products. Spray and drum drying use high heat to remove the water content. As mentioned above, this can destroy significant amounts of antioxidants and other nutrients.
- Check the label. There are many inferior Acai berry products on the market now. If it doesn’t say freeze-dried on the label, you know it is not. Also, look for ORAC values. The higher it is, the more care was taken in harvesting and processing the berries. Higher quality products will also list the amounts of Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids on the bottle.
Freeze drying immediately after harvest is by far the best method. But many manufacturers use spray drying or drum drying because it is easier, cheaper and faster to make the end product. Unfortunately the high heat used in these cheaper methods can destroy the antioxidants and other nutrients in the food. With proper freeze drying, almost all of the nutrients can be preserved. And with the addition of water, the pulp can be restored to its original state — complete with the original taste and aroma. Unlike juices, freeze drying can also preserve the fiber content of the berry.
Another popular supplement is the so called Acai berry “extract” — sometimes marketed as a 4:1 extract. Extraction normally involves isolating one element of a plant and extracting it. For example, you may want to extract caffeine from a coffee bean plant. But for acai berry, extraction doesn’t make sense. The antioxidants and other nutrients in the berry come from the whole of the fruit — not from any extract of a part of the berry. Again, freeze drying the berry is the only way to preserve all the nutrients in the food.
Freeze drying is a process of dehydration which works by freezing the material, then reducing the surrounding pressure and adding just enough heat to allow the frozen water in the material to sublime directly from the solid phase to gas. The freezing and drying phases are critical, because if not done correctly they could alter the structure of the material. In practice, these processes can take several days. And they are a much more costly method than spray drying or drum drying. However, the benefit is that the material can retain almost all of its nutritional benefits — including preserving high antioxidant and other nutrient content, flavor and aroma.
Spray drying is a simpler method of drying a material. The material is often mixed with a carrier such as maltodextrin to make a homogeneous solution. The solution is then sprayed through a nozzle into a hot vapor stream until vaporized. Solids form as the moisture quickly leaves the droplets. The solids are then collected in a container. Spray drying is used to produce products such as skim milk powders.
As compared to other drying methods, spray dryers can dry a product significantly faster than other drying methods. And the process of turning a solution into a dried powder can be performed in a single step. This can be advantageous for profit maximization and process simplification.
Unfortunately the use of high heat can destroy the antioxidants and other nutrients in the underlying material. And mixing the material with a carrier such as maltodextrin can dilute the final concentration in the resulting end product.
Drum drying is a method of drying a material by applying a thin film of a solution to a heated drum. The dried material is then scraped off with a knife or other instrument. As compared to spray drying, drum drying uses a more intense heat treatment. This results in more denatured proteins and a less soluble final material. Due to the uneven temperature uniformity of the drum, the resulting dried material is of lower quality than spray drying. And again, the high heat used in processing destroys the antioxidants and other nutrients.
Other considerations in choosing supplements
What is the source of the supplement?
Of course, no matter what process you use, the end product can only be as good as the original berry used. If the quality of the harvested berry was not good or the berry was not harvested and processed in a timely manner, the end product will be of low quality.
Some manufacturers may also grind up the seed of the fruit and use it in their end product. Although the seed makes up 90% of the fruit and the skin and pulp make up the remaining 10%, it is the skin and pulp that provide all the nutrients. But unscrupulous manufacturers can save money by using the seed to produce more product. The result is a product which has one tenth the amount of nutrients of reputable freeze dried products.
What is the final concentration of acai berry in the end product?
The various methods of processing described above generate different concentrations of acai in the final end product. Again, freeze drying is the best method as it generates the highest concentration of acai berry. One gram of freeze dried acai supplement is roughly equivalent to 7 grams of fresh pulp and skin. Even if the acai “4:1 extract” did use the whole berry, they would only contain about half the concentration of freeze dried acai — and thus half the nutrients. Because of the addition of approximately 40% maltodextrin or other carriers in the spray drying process, any spray dried products are also only going to provide about half the concentration of acai as freeze drying. But because this carrier is used in processing it is not required to be listed in the ingredients. You should also completely avoid any products that use the acai seed as they will contain one tenth the actual acai.
Reviews of different Supplements are below: