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Is an Acai Berry Cleanse Good for You? Separating Fact from Fiction
May 25, 2017
Are you concerned about the buildup of toxins in your system from the chemicals you’re exposed to on a regular basis? Then you may have heard of the potential benefits of doing an acai berry cleanse.
Detoxes and cleanses are tricky subjects, so make sure you are very informed before beginning this kind of regimen, including a consult with your doctor. And don’t be fooled by all the hype — yes, the acai berry is an excellent whole food, but there is no magic ingredient in it that equates to immediate and unheard-of weight loss.
However, there are benefits to introducing acai berries into your diet, too. Let’s talk about the facts: the real benefits, the potential drawbacks and the how-to of an acai berry cleanse.
Is an Acai Berry Cleanse Good for You or Bad for You?
Spend any time at all searching for ways to lose weight fast, and you’re bound to find information about so-called “cleanses” and “detoxes.” You’ve got to admit — it’s an intriguing option. Take a pill or down a glass of something that probably tastes gross, and just watch the fat drain off your body!
While it’s an exciting notion and there’s truly a great benefit to be found by ridding your body of toxins and heavy metals, the quick-fix detoxes or juice cleanses you see online are often nothing more than scams that have laxative effects on your system. Sure, you might reduce bloating temporarily and notice a change in your, ahem, bathroom habits, but no food or cleanse product actually forces your body to burn fat any more than another.
Much of the information regarding acai berry cleanse products refers to claims that it “jump-starts” a weight loss program by detoxifying the body and therefore is recommended to people who are changing their diets as a way to “start fresh.” There are also claims of weight loss up to 450 percent higher than by diet and exercise alone, none of which are backed by any scientific evidence. (1)
One statistic stated that about 63 percent of the reviews on acai berry cleanse supplements were positive, with the remaining 37 percent filled with notes of frustration and little to no results. While these are pieces of anecdotal evidence and cannot be relied upon as factual or scientific, it’s at least interesting to note that a majority of people trying acai berry cleanse products experience at least some perceived benefit.
The truth about detoxing or cleansing is that your body naturally detoxifies itself regularly if you feed it with whole, real foods. But more on that in a moment.
First, I’ll just say that, based on the fact that most acai berry cleanse products are not regulated in any way (meaning they can claim anything they want without fear of consequence) and that there is no science backing their efficacy, I would not recommend trying them. Acai berries are, indeed, filled with incredibly powerful antioxidants and have several health benefits in and of themselves, but the “cleanse” products using acai sometimes contain as little as 5 percent actual acai berry.
Losing weight can be a complex issue for some people, but the No. 1 way to start is by eliminating processed foods from your diet and replacing them with whole, life-giving foods as part of a balanced and calorically moderate lifestyle. Adding physical fitness helps your body maintain peak function and encourages more weight loss. However, anything that guarantees swift and effortless weight loss is simply false advertising.
How Can I Detox My Body and Benefit From an Acai Berry Cleanse?
While it may sound like I’m completely anti-detoxing, that’s not true. I want to make sure that when you choose to detoxify and cleanse your colon, you do it in a way that’s healthy and proven to be effective. It can definitely be necessary for certain people — constipation, bloating, gas and headaches are just a few symptoms of toxic overload that can be treated by a healthy cleanse.
The absolute best way to detox is known as the Daniel fast. Daniel, a character in the Bible, requested a diet of only water and vegetables when training alongside King Nebuchadnezzar’s army because the foods the other soldiers ate went against Jewish dietary customs. The story goes that Daniel and his three friends looked healthier at the end of 10 days on this diet than the rest of the soldiers fed meat and wines from the king’s table.
Today, people participate in Daniel fasts for a number of reasons, including physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. One of the best physical results of a Daniel fast is an overall detox of your digestive system.
Because Daniel fasts include only fruits, vegetables, pure fruit and vegetable juices, and water, acai berries are an incredibly welcome addition to this diet. Along with other wholesome foods, acai offers you a huge load of antioxidants and other nutrients, including fiber, that work to clean out your system.
Pros of a Daniel Fast with Açai Berries
1. Supports Heart Health
In general, the Daniel fast is known for protecting the heart by improving your lipid profile, meaning the amount of cholesterol, triglycerides and other factors in your blood that are associated with heart disease. (2)
Specifically, the juice of the acai berry significantly improves your lipid profile as well. In a study of sprinters focused in Poland, a six-week supplementation with one serving of acai berry juice resulted in a better cholesterol balance and an overall lowering of heart disease markers. (3) Another pilot study found that these same levels, which are also known as metabolic disease risk markers, decreased in overweight adults after one month of adding acai berry pulp to their diets. (4)
2. Prevents Disease with Antioxidants
Acai berries are a rich source of antioxidants, including anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient famous for reducing blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol. (5) What’s the reason antioxidants like the ones found in acai are so beneficial to your body?
It’s because many of us are subject to a large amount of oxidative stress due to the free radicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis. These free radicals can be found in everything from processed foods to sunlight exposure. The presence of free radicals on their own is not even a bad thing — it’s one of the ways your body is continually renewed. However, Western lifestyles are known for their unfortunately high levels of free radical damage, especially related to the amount of processed foods we eat.
This overexposure leads to a high amount of oxidative stress that begins to wreak havoc within the body, contributing to conditions like heart failure and cancer.
Eating foods high in antioxidants and eliminating processed foods and sugar from your diet as much as possible helps you avoid the oxidative stress responsible for a lot of disease — not to mention that they also help to slow the physical aging process and improve your outer appearance, too.
Participants in a 21-day Daniel fast should see a reduced amount of oxidative stress within the body, so combining this with the most super of superfoods (like acai) will only multiply the protective effect of this diet. (6)
3. Improves Brain Function
Another incredible “side effect” of the Daniel fast is the way it improves brain function and mood. Participants often see a reduction in brain fog (that fuzzy feeling that makes you feel like you can’t remember things quickly or access simple information) as well as a reduction in anxiety.
Adding acai to your Daniel fast makes a difference here, too. The acai berry contains a long list of nutrients known to improve cognitive and motor function, including many of the antioxidants also responsible for its other benefits. (7)
4. Aids in Weight Loss
While this may not be your only goal in trying a Daniel fast, losing weight is one of the common results. This is due to a number of reasons, including a reduction in carbohydrates, a drop in the overall calories you consume each day, the elimination of sugar and the presence of a large amount of fiber while eating only fruits and vegetables.
The acai berry may not have magic belly-busting abilities, but it does contain monounsaturated fats, unlike most fruit. These fats, also known as MUFAs, are associated with weight loss and the feeling of being full, which helps prevent overeating, as well as decreasing insulin sensitivity. (8) These berries are also low in calories.
5. Keeps Your Digestive System Healthy
A cleanse would not be a cleanse if it didn’t help promote the health of your digestive system. The Daniel fast with acai berry does just that.
First of all, both the Daniel fast in general and acai berries in particular boast a super high fiber content. By eating foods high in both soluble and insoluble fibers, you help your body digest everything it should in the way it’s supposed to do it.
A common problem many people have and are unaware of regarding the digestive system is known as leaky gut syndrome. This is a condition that arises when the “net” of your digestive lining becomes dangerously permeable, allowing toxins and other problems to leak into the rest of your body. Some of the factors that lead to leaky gut are toxin overload and inflammation, both of which are helped by the cleanse that the Daniel fast provides.
By removing foods like sugar, processed grains and conventional dairy from your diet and replacing them with healing ones, you should see your digestive system regulate. This allows your body to detoxify on a daily basis, rather than just once every so often, which leads to a reduction in that stubborn belly fat and bloating.
The nutrients in acai also help promote speedier digestion so your body is less likely to allow undigested food or any other accumulated substances to remain in the colon.
Not only does it help you digest food more efficiently, but acai also has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammatory bowel diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are common inflammation-related problems that can be aided, in part, by an anti-inflammatory diet.
Are there cons to a Daniel fast with acai berries?
If you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s important to consult with your primary health care provider before beginning a Daniel fast. While fruits and vegetables, including acai berries, are healthy for you, pregnant and nursing moms often need a wider nutrient load to ensure the proper development of infants.
Otherwise, the Daniel fast is a relatively safe one. The only minor drawback generally is cost. Organic, high-quality fruits and vegetables add up, especially when you need to eat a full day’s worth of calories in only fruits and veggies. Acai berries in particular are a high-cost fruit — only about 5 percent of the actual fruit is used in acai berry products (juices, powders, pulp, etc.), and it must be imported from outside of the U.S., making it a premium fruit.
It’s also important (as on any diet) to take in a large amount of water each day to stay hydrated.
How to Follow a Daniel Fast with Acai Berries + Acai Berry Cleanse Recipes
Like I said, the Daniel fast includes mainly fruits, vegetables, pure juices and water. Almond milk, coconut water and kefir are also acceptable drink choices. Vegetables form the basis of your diet, supplemented by fruits (one to three servings daily), whole grains (only sprouted grains in moderation), beans and legumes (in moderation), and sprouted seeds and nuts.
Make sure to eliminate dairy, most grains, sugar, energy drinks, caffeine, gum, meat and oils from your diet while on the Daniel fast.
Because it’s impossible to get fresh acai outside of South America (it begins to over-ripen in as little as 24 hours due to the presence of monounsaturated fats), pure acai is generally bought in liquid, powder or pulp form. When purchasing acai berry products, make sure you buy organic, 100 percent acai berry, rather than a product with other added ingredients. Acai juices, in particular, are known for having added sugar.
I love acai bowls so much that I curated 20 acai bowl recipes for you to try, many of which are friendly for the Daniel fast.
While the bowl is king when it comes to acai recipes, it’s also delicious to try in smoothies like this Acai Smoothie.
And for something completely different, why not make some Acai & Strawberry Tea? Unsweetened, of course, if you’re currently on a Daniel fast.
History and Interesting Facts about the Acai Berry Cleanse
Why exactly has the acai berry cleanse become such a big deal? This is due, in part, to the obsession with cleanses and detoxes that began with the ancient Egyptians. The people of Egypt, and later those of Greece, introduced the concept of colon cleansing. Their theory was that food on the inside of the body, like on the outside, had begun to rot by the time it reached the colon. The process of colon detoxification focused on cleaning out the “rotted” food as quickly as possible. (9)
Even as recently as the late 1800s, the practice of detoxing was recommended in many popular medical journals. A few physicians even went as far as recommending the removal of the colon altogether to avoid the toxins in the colon from entering back into the body.
By 1930, colon cleansing faded from common medicine until its recurrence in the late 1990s. Recently, the craze of the “magic detox” is en vogue once again, leading to a plethora of products that are unnecessary to the natural process of toxin cleansing.
Acai berries do contain nutrients that aid in digestion, helping the colon efficiently eliminate waste. They also contain high levels of fiber. Based on this, supplement companies have developed various products around the acai berry, which unfortunately contain many ingredients that are not necessarily published or understood in addition to actual acai.
About 10 years ago, Oprah interviewed Dr. Mehmet Oz on her television show regarding the hype around the acai berry. This interview, now unavailable anywhere online, sparked a huge legal battle in which Oprah and Dr. Oz sued over 40 companies for using their names, faces and false quotes to sell their “miracle” diet tool: the acai berry cleanse. (10)
These days, while people are becoming more and more aware of what a great food the acai berry is, no reputable experts tout this cleanse as anything more than a scam. However, most stores still sell some version (or multiple versions) of an acai berry cleanse product, which often comes in pill or powder form.
Potential Side Effects and Caution with the Acai Berry Cleanse
As stated above, acai berry cleanse products are generally full of lots of added ingredients, not all of which are always listed on the label. For example, one of the most popular brands of acai berry cleanse pills on the market contains a known carcinogen, silica (crystalline). Although this chemical may be safe in small amounts, the amount included in these supplement pills is not noted.
There has also been at least one recorded case of rhabdomyolysis that was associated with a mislabeled acai berry cleanse product. (11)
In regard to the Daniel fast with acai berry, make sure to consult with your physician if you’re nursing or pregnant before beginning this particular regimen. Otherwise, watch for any allergic reaction to acai berries or other fruits, and discontinue eating them if you experience swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth.
Final Thoughts on Acai Berry Cleanse
- The acai berry cleanse is a health fad diet that claims to aid in weight loss, among other health benefits. None of these benefits has ever been studied or proven.
- Detoxing by cleansing the colon has been a common medical practice off and on for many centuries, beginning with the ancient Egyptians.
- Modern science now shows us that a diet full of whole, unprocessed foods generally allows the body to regularly detoxify itself.
- Acai berries are a great superfruit, packed with antioxidants and other disease-fighting nutrients.
- The best way to detoxify while enjoying the benefits of acai is to try a Daniel fast.
- Daniel fasts with acai berries can help benefit your heart, fight off disease, improve brain function, encourage weight loss and improve digestion.