|Brazil’s acaí berries|
When you think of Brazil, your initial thoughts are probably about the great Amazon Rainforest, or perhaps its national soccer team, once again among the favorites in this year’s World Cup competition. Or maybe your thoughts turn to the annual Carnival celebrations held each year in Rio de Janeiro and billed as ‘the biggest party on earth.’
But if you’re a foodie, your focus is most likely trained on the country’s culinary treasures, especially its fruits and nuts.
Of late, much of the world’s attention has been directed toward Brazil’s amazing acaí berry, as studies have shown it to be one of the most nutritionally complete foods found in all of nature.
Native to the Amazon, Acaí berries are rich in antioxidants and amino acids. The acaí pulp contains a high concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant substances that help to prevent premature aging. Its antocianine concentration (purple antioxidant) is up to 30 times greater than in red wine or in other red fruits. Plus, the berry’s dietary fibers and phytosterols interfere in the absorption of bad cholesterol (LDL), thus benefiting the cardiovascular system.
Try our recipe for Acaí Berry-Mango Sorbet
Frequent consumption of this berry superfood has been shown to improve digestion and increase the ability to focus. Studies indicate it’s a great body detox and helps to strengthen the immune system. Some 649,000 tons of acaí were produced in Brazil in 2008, the most recent year such data is available.
Beyond the Berry
In 2009, Brazil embarked on the Amazon Flavours Project to promote the diversity and quality of fruits that originate from the Amazon region, aiming to widen the commercialization of Amazon products. Besides the acaí berry, there are about 120 varieties of native fruits found there, many of which Brazil hopes to have commercialized.
Brazil is the third largest fruit producer in the world, with more than 42 million tons produced last year. Currently, 15 types of fruit are commercially produced and processed in the Amazon Rainforest including the cupuacu, the bacuri, the taperebá, and the camu-camu. More conventional fruits are also produced in the region, such as pineapples, passion fruit, oranges, acerola, and soursop (also called graviola).
In addition to its wealth of fruits, Brazil is also known for its nuts, primarily the proudly named Brazil nut. The Brazil nut is extraordinarily rich in selenium, a dietary fiber that contains a large quantity of antioxidants. The Brazil nut may be eaten fresh as well as used in making chocolates, cereal bars, cookies, sweets, and cakes.
Try our recipe for Rainforest Granola with Toasted Brazil Nuts
Marketing and Sampling
The Amazon Flavours Brazil Project has created a new American website (the USA is the largest importer of acaí), and visitors to the site can find recipes for some of Brazil’s native fruits and nuts. The project has also been conducting product sampling at major events, including the Indianapolis 500 just last month. This week, additional marketing efforts and sampling will begin at the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.
There was much excitement and celebration in Brazil last year, when Rio de Janeiro was selected as the site for the Summer Olympics in 2016. By then, the country hopes to have the whole world munching on fruits and nuts from the Amazon in ever-growing numbers.