It’s okay we all want to believe that deliciously sweet açaí bowl from our local Playa Bowls or smoothie place is healthy. I mean it’s a superfood right? And it’s so delicious. Unfortunately that may not always be true.
Acai, you may be surprised to learn, is not actually the culprit for this overly sweetened bowl. Açaí is a dark purple berry from South America that's grown in the Amazon rainforest and has a tart, earthy flavor. Some people say it tastes like a cross between blackberries and unsweetened chocolate. It is rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which give it its color and may protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Acai also contains fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A and it is one of many fruits that can benefit your health as part of a balanced diet.
So what’s the problem with açaí bowls?
An acai bowl is basically a very thick smoothie made with frozen acai, often mixed with other fruits such as banana and mango, juices, or sweetened nut milk. One of the drawbacks of acai bowls is that they can be very high in sugar and calories if you're not careful. For instance at Playa Bowls you’ll find açaí bowls that are nearly 40g of sugar per bowl. Thats actually on the low end because if you look at places like Vitality Bowls or Jamba Juice (I mean why?) it’s nearly 65 grams of sugar per bowl. Thats double the recommended daily allowance for sugar, in just one bowl.
The problem is they are often blended with other fruits (such as bananas or mangoes), juice (such as apple or orange), or sweetened nut milk (such as almond or coconut). These ingredients the first round of sugar and calories to your bowl. Then there are the toppings. A typical acai bowl is topped with granola (which can be high in sugar and oil), more fruits (which add more natural sugar), nuts and seeds (typically fine if not sugared), nut butters (which can have added sugar and oil), chocolate pieces or cacao nibs (which can add more sugar and fat), coconut flakes (sometime with sugar), and honey (more sugar).
The result is a sugar bomb marketed as a healthful superfood. Fret not to make this bowl healthy all you need to do is remove the items that drive the sugar content in these bowls.
Here are some tips to make an açaí bowl healthy:
- Choose unsweetened frozen acai puree packs or powder instead of juice or sweetened puree.
- Use water or unsweetened nut milk instead of juice to blend your acai.
- Limit the amount of other fruits you blend with your acai. Choose low-sugar fruits such as berries or kiwi instead of high-sugar fruits such as bananas or mangoes.
- Use less granola or skip it altogether. You can use dry roasted nuts or seeds instead for some crunch.
- Use unsweetened nut butters instead of sweetened ones.
- Use unsweetened dark chocolate or cacao nibs instead of milk chocolate or chocolate chips.
- Use unsweetened coconut flakes instead of sweetened ones.
- Use less honey or skip it altogether. You can use stevia or monk fruit instead for some sweetness.
Now that we’ve covered all that, here's an easy recipe that you can try at home. It's delicious, nutritious, and satisfying.
What You'll need:
- 1 frozen unsweetened acai puree pack or 2 tablespoons of acai powder
- 1/4 cup of water or unsweetened almond milk
- 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries
- 1/4 cup of frozen raspberries
- 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon of almond butter
- A pinch of stevia or monk fruit (optional)
- Toppings: sliced strawberries, slivered almonds, cacao nibs, unsweetened coconut flakes
- Break the acai puree pack into pieces and add it to a blender. If using acai powder, just add it to the blender.
- Add the water or almond milk, the frozen berries, the hemp seeds, the almond butter, and the sweetener if using. Blend until smooth and thick. You may need to scrape down the sides of the blender or add more liquid as needed.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and top with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!
Açaí bowls can be a great way to start your day with some antioxidants and fiber, as long as you make them healthy and low in sugar. This a great way to create variety, for another option try a healthy breakfast with a protein shake. Let us know what you think of these recipes in the comments below. And don't forget to share this post with your friends who love acai bowls too!