While you may be familiar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, are you familiar with its recommendations? Pop quiz: How many servings of fruits and vegetables should you eat every day? And, bonus points: How many servings do you yourself eat?
As it turns out, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about one-quarter of American adults eat the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables -- that's five or more servings every day. If it sounds daunting, let's look at it this way. One serving of fruit is equal to an apple the size of a tennis ball (1/2 cup of fruit). One serving of vegetables is equal to four leaves of lettuce (1 cup of leafy greens). It's not so bad when you think about it as food portions instead of as cup sizes.
Eating those five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day may help to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 30 percent [source: The Healthy Eating Guide]. Some foods, though, like the acai berry, work a little harder to keep you healthy: These are the superfoods.
Superfoods aren't meant to spark weight loss or jump-start your metabolism. Rather, they're foods that are packed with antioxidants and nutrients -- they're good-for-you foods that you should try add to your daily diet as often as possible. Antioxidants are substances found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains (as well as in some meats, fish and poultry). Vitamins A, C and E are all antioxidants, and so are beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and selenium. They help protect our cells from something called free radicals, which are molecules that form as the body metabolizes food or when we're exposed to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke or radiation. Free radicals may damage otherwise healthy cells. Antioxidants stabilize them, possibly helping to prevent or reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, chronic inflammation and other conditions free radicals have been linked to.
The acai berry, specifically, is dense with not only antioxidants but also amino acids and essential fatty acids (these are good fats, such as omega-3s). Some studies show that the berry may be 10 times richer in antioxidants than red grapes and contain as much as 30 times more anthocyanins (flavonoids) than red wine [source: Oprah.com]. How does this translate into a diet? Let's look at the pros and cons of the Acai Superfood Diet.