The favorite energy food of BJJ practitioners, the açaí has become popular among athletes and non-athletes alike. With its unique flavor and healthy properties, the fruit from the north of Brazil has gained fans the world over. But preparing it correctly can be the difference between a quality meal and one that can harm your performance.
To clear this up, we talked to nutritionist Danielle Machado, who recently visited the Amazon rainforest. “The açaí,” she says, “is rich in anthocyanins, a purple pigment with great antioxidant abilities that helps combat aging and prevent some types of cancer. Besides, the açaí has good amounts of omega 6, omega 9, oleic acid, vitamins B1, B2, C and E, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium, as well as proteins, fibers and carbs. That is, a complete food.
“The properties of the açaí help with weight loss, prevent cramps, act as a natural anti-inflammatory — essential to high-performance athletes, — as well as being an excellent source of energy.”
Still, there are things that can go wrong when consuming the fruit, and Dr. Machado has her own recipe to make sure you make the best of it. “The consumer must be wary of the ways the açaí is sold,” she says, “because the guarana syrup, which is often added to the fruit, raises the number of calories per tablespoon by about 93. Since the syrup raises by a lot the glycemic index and, consequently, the levels of insulin in the body, this excessive sugar tends to be stored in the form of fat, and the individual may even develop diabetes in some cases. Not to mention other cases where stores sell the açaí with sweet sauce, chocolates, candy and cookies, making the sugar concentration even higher.
“In the Amazon region, the açaí is consumed with flour by the riverine population. But another option is to blend some organic açaí pulp, a frozen banana, 50ml of coconut water and a tablespoon of oatmeal for a nutritious, efficient, natural pre-training meal.”
When in doubt, one can never be too wrong by sticking to the recommendations made by the Gracies over the decades: Sweeten your açaí with dates, honey or apple juice.