Acai berry (pronounced A-SIGH-EEE) has the scientific name Euterpe oleraceae. It is also commonly called acai palm, palm berry or cabbage palm. This plant grows in South America around the Amazon River basin. The skin and pulp of the acai fruit contains fatty acids like linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid and flavonoids like anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. Acai seeds contain Protocatechuic acid, Procyanidins and Epicatechin.
People in South America have used acai berries for centuries as a fruit that boosts energy levels and has powerful healing properties.
Acai berries are said to help lower cholesterol, helpful in treating cardiovascular diseases, cancer and allergies. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and apoptotic properties. Acai berries are also said to prevent cellular oxidative damage and diseases related to this and slow down the aging process. Acai berries can be consumed raw, as juice or supplements.
Goji berry also called Chinese wolfberry, Lycium barbarum or Mede berry grows predominantly in some parts of China and the Himalayan regions of Tibet and Nepal.
Goji berries are cultivated mostly in China where it is referred to as ‘red diamond’. The fruit is very delicate when ripe and needs to be shaken gently from the shrubs and collected. It is then dried mechanically or under mild sunlight to preserve the nutrients. Almost all goji berries available outside China are not fresh. They can be added to soup or rice dishes, salads, made into tea or juice.
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve sexual activity, promote good health and happiness, increase life span and improve physical strength. This deep red berry is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E, B6, 18 essential amino acids, linoleic acid, beta-carotene, 21 trace minerals, germanium and selenium. Cancer patients who included goji berries in their treatment regime responded better to chemotherapy drugs.
Nutritional Comparison of Acai Berry and Goji Berry
The following is the nutritional value of 240g or 8 fluid ounces of acai berry juice.
- Calories – 125
- Calories from fat – 18
Total fat – 2.0g (3% DV)
- Saturated fat – 0.5g (2% DV)
- Sodium – 10mg (0% DV)
Total carbohydrates – 29.0 g (10% DV)
- Dietary fiber – 4.0g (10% DV)
- Sugars 21g
- Protein – 1.0g
- Vitamin A – 10% DV
- Vitamin C – 200% DV
- Calcium – 3% DV
- Iron – 5% DV
According to ‘Calorie Count’, the advantages of acai berries is that they have very low sodium content, high in dietary fiber, low in saturated fat and extremely high levels of vitamin C. the negative aspect is that they are high in sugar.
The following is the nutritional value of 5 tablespoons or 28g of dried Tibetan goji berries.
- Calories – 112
- Calories from fat – 14
Total fat – 1.6g (2% DV)
- Saturated fat – 0g (0% DV)
- Cholesterol – 0mg (0% DV)
- Sodium – 0mg (0% DV)
Total carbohydrates – 24.0 g (8% DV)
- Dietary fiber – 3g (12% DV)
- Sugars 21g
- Protein – 1.0g
- Vitamin A – 170% DV
- Vitamin C – 20% DV
- Calcium – 8% DV
- Iron – 12% DV
The DV – percent daily values are calculated for a 2000 calorie diet. Each person’s daily value will be more or less depending on their individual calorie needs.
The advantages of goji berries are that they have no saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol. They have high levels of iron, vitamin C and dietary fiber and very high levels of vitamin A. the disadvantage is that there is also a high sugar content.
These values will vary depending on the variety of both acai berries and goji berries and the way they are consumed – fresh, raw, juice or supplement.
In the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale that measures the antioxidant properties of foods, acai berries have an ORAC of 102,000 vs goji berries at 30,000. As far as fat content is concerned, acai berries provide us with 100% DRI of fat which is mostly heart-healthy fats. In fiber content acai berries have a slight edge over goji berries.
Benefits – Acai and Goji Berry
Both acai and goji berries are powerful antioxidants. Goji berries are immune system boosters and have the ability to fight cancer cells. Acai berries are better for weight loss programs and increase metabolism rates.
Both acai and goji berries are used for various medical conditions. Both are useful as supplementary treatment for diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and anemia. The high levels of polysaccharides and zeaxanthin found in goji berries are very effective in treating age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts; they help with weight loss and have anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties.
Goji berries also treat sexual dysfunction, protect the liver, lower cholesterol levels, treat burns, inflammatory conditions, skin disorders, coughs and pains.
Acai berries help with hepatitis, autoimmune disorders, allergies, dysmenorrhea and jaundice. While these are all the traditional uses of these fruits, there is no sufficient scientific evidence backing the claims.
Dosage and Precautions
15 g of whole berries or 3-4 tablespoons of goji juice is the RDA for this fruit. For acai berries, it is 2g of capsules or 1 oz acai berry powder mixed with water.
The main problem with acai berries is that they cannot be dried and transported like goji berries can. This is due to the high fat content that prevents them from being dried. Hence, they lose out on nutritional value when transported. Acai juice is the best way to enjoy its benefits. Acai juice is usually freeze-dried before transportation to retain nutrients for longer periods. Goji berries on the other hand retain most of their nutrients as shade-dried berries and goji juice.
Goji berries from China are sometimes full of pesticides and insecticides since Chinese harvesters do not follow safe organic standards. Hence, check certification on the labels when purchasing any type of goji berries.
Acai berries can sometimes interact adversely with chemotherapy drugs since they contain antioxidant properties. Goji berries cannot be taken when a person is on blood thinning medications like warfarin. Goji berries also interact with blood pressure and diabetic drugs. Those with pollen allergies must stay away from goji berries.
The high nutrient levels in both acai and goji makes them desirable for consumption. Always check the fruit content in any product you buy. For the best nutrient benefits, you invariably require 100% pure juice, fruit or puree.
Always consult your doctor before taking either fruit. While there are not too many serious side effects, it is best to be cautious especially when using them as herbal supplements.
Source: mskcc, internet research