What Is the Acai Berry Diet?

Acai Berry Diet

 Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The açaí berry is widely touted as a natural weight loss and detoxification aid. There are different forms of the açaí berry diet, but most approaches involve the use of dietary supplements containing açaí berry extract and other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural substances.

The açaí palm tree is native to Central and South America, where its berries have long been used for medicinal purposes (particularly in Brazil). Like other brightly colored fruits and vegetables, açaí berries are very high in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins.

Proponents claim that the açaí berry diet can speed up metabolism, suppress appetite, and "cleanse" the body. While the açaí berry might be a superfood, the açaí berry diet doesn't necessarily have super weight-loss powers. 

What Experts Say

"The açaí berry diet requires weight loss supplements that include extracts of the açaí berry. Experts agree supplements should be used with caution because they’re not regulated like drugs. This diet is costly and focused on weight loss, not health."

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

What Can You Eat?

You can choose to purchase açaí berry supplements or add more of the berries themselves to your diet to reap their superfood benefits. However, whole açaí berries are hard to find and are expensive. If you're buying juices or smoothies containing açaí, check the label; these beverages could be high in sugar and calories.

As an alternative, other dark red and purple berries such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are a less expensive, more readily available substitute for açaí. They're also loaded with antioxidants.

What You Need to Know

The açaí berry diet does not include a formal eating plan but instead relies on açaí berry supplements. But nutrition experts say that it's better to get antioxidants and other nutrients from food, rather than in supplement form.

There are no suggested meal plans or food restrictions associated with the açaí berry diet. Simply take the supplements as directed and then eat your normal diet.

In most cases, proponents of the açaí berry diet advocate using dietary supplements that contain açaí and other natural substances said to aid in weight loss. Supplement instructions may differ, but some may suggest consuming them with a meal. These substances may include:

Remember that health claims made by manufacturers of dietary supplements are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

What to Eat
  • Açaí berry supplements

  • All other foods

What Not to Eat
  • N/A

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Contains antioxidants

  • Flexible plan

Cons
  • Expensive

  • No guidelines

  • No scientific evidence

  • Supplements are unregulated

Pros

Provides Antioxidants

There's no doubt that the açaí berry is an excellent source of antioxidants, and that these antioxidants do have healthful effects.

Program Is Flexible

Most versions of the açaí berry diet simply call for consuming the supplements and have no other restrictions or requirements. This makes the plan customizable to suit an individual's needs and dietary patterns.

Cons

Supplements Are Costly

The açaí berry diet is not an eating plan, but rather, a weight-loss program that relies on dietary supplements. Investing in dietary supplements can be an expensive choice for people who are looking to lose weight.

No Guidelines for Healthy Eating

While açai berries are a superfood, the diet itself does not provide any guidelines for healthy eating patterns. Açaí berries can be included in a balanced diet, but an açaí berry diet that also includes processed foods and added sugars is not a healthy choice.

No Scientific Evidence

Due to the lack of scientific support for its effectiveness, nutrition experts do not recommend the açaí berry diet for weight loss.

No studies have tested the weight-loss effects of other substances when taken with açaí. Therefore, claims by proponents that the herbs, vitamins, and minerals included in the açaí diet supplements work "synergistically" to promote weight loss and/or cleansing are unwarranted. More research is still needed to determine the safety of the açaí berry diet.

Supplements Are Unregulated

Because weight loss supplements like açaí berry are not regulated, in some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

There is insufficient evidence to support açaí berry supplements as an effective weight loss strategy. And since dietary supplements are largely unregulated by the FDA, their safety can't be guaranteed.

Is the Açaí Berry Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

The açaí berry diet resembles other weight loss plans centered around dietary supplements. For instance, GOLO for Life is a weight loss program that includes an eating plan and a supplement that contains magnesium and chromium (as many açaí diet products do). Isagenix is a weight-loss plan that works by replacing most meals with Isagenix shakes and other products and supplements.

The Purium 10-Day Transformation program is a very low-calorie eating plan that includes several supplements and meal replacements. Like the açaí supplements, the Purium products aim to take advantage of the potential weight-loss promotion powers of certain herbs and minerals.

But none of these plans are aligned with federal guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet since they replace important nutrients from real, whole foods with dietary supplements.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends including lean protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy products in your meals. Eating this way helps ensure you get a variety of nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.

For weight loss, nutrition experts recommend calorie counting. However, the açaí berry diet does not have a calorie recommendation. If your goal is to lose weight, the USDA suggests a reduction of 500 calories per day. On a 2,000-calorie diet, that equates to roughly 1,500 calories per day—but this number varies based on an individual's age, sex, weight, height, and level of physical activity. To determine a range that's best for you, try this calculator.

Like other supplement-based weight loss programs, the açaí berry diet does not adhere to federal guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet.

Health Benefits

May Support Weight Loss

While research on the açaí berry diet is lacking, preliminary findings indicate that other substances included in some açaí berry supplements may help promote weight loss. For instance, a 2009 research review determined that catechins (antioxidants found in green tea) may help boost metabolism and have a "small positive effect" on weight loss and weight maintenance.

In a 2011 review, meanwhile, researchers found that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may be effective for weight loss. However, since supporting evidence is limited, the authors warn that more research is still needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of CLA supplements.

May Boost Immunity and Reduce Inflammation

To date, most of the data on açaí's potential health benefits come from laboratory studies and animal-based research. For instance, preliminary test-tube research suggests that açaí may stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. In one of the human-based studies testing the health effects of açaí, researchers found that açaí consumption may increase antioxidant levels— but the study involved only 12 people.

Health Risks

While there is some evidence that yerba mate, chromium, and hoodia may help promote weight loss, there are some safety concerns associated with these substances. For example, yerba mate, which contains caffeine, may trigger anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and headache. Chromium may have negative effects on blood sugar levels and hoodia may cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Nutritionists say the best sources of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are from whole foods, not supplements. Given the unreliable nature of açaí berry supplements (their labels may not accurately list their ingredients or the amounts of those ingredients), it is not a good idea to consume them for the long term.

A Word From Verywell

If you're looking to lose weight, the National Institutes of Health recommends following a weight-management plan that pairs healthy eating with regular exercise, instead of supplements. If you're considering any form of the açaí berry diet, talk to your doctor first. They can help you formulate a safe, healthy eating plan that works for you.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

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Article Sources
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