Friday, March 13, 2009

Açaí, or, the Latest Fad for Get-Rich Companies to Rip Off Americans, While Brazilians Know Better

Without having to think too hard about it, I can safely say that açaí is my favorite of all Brazilian food items. Made from the açaí berry, açaí is a delicious, thick, purple, smoothie-like drink that has a really rich flavor, and mixes wonderfully with strawberries, bananas, and/or granola. It is especially excellent in the Brazilian heat, when it's too hot to eat a big meal - it's nice and cool, and the relatively high (for fruit) calorie count keeps you going for quite awhile without leaving you wishing you were dead with a full stomach in the heat. It's apparently also full of anti-oxidants, which is great, but I don't eat it because of the health benefits. I eat it because it is unbelievably good.

That said, Randy is right about overstated (or simply false) claims of what açaí can do. He touches upon this, but the one thing I would add is that this seems to me a strictly American phenomenon. Not once have I heard anybody in Brazil, doctors, producers, nutritionists, anybody, extolling the virtues of açaí that I've heard people make about it in the U.S. In Brazil, it's a good energy-drink that, like any fruit, has some health benefits. Beyond that, Brazilians across the board extol the drink for its taste and refreshing qualities, and not much more. There are no claims that açaí helps your joints, makes you look younger, or helps you lose weight.

These claims being made by American companies producing açaí-based products are, simply put, borderline bullshit. They are simply trying to capitalize on a particular cultural mentality in the U.S. that is always trying to find the next no-effort, quick-result way to look younger/feel better/be healthier, all without having to actually do the work required to achieve those results (save for the quixotic and stupid quest to "look younger" - sorry, America, you simply cannot reverse the aging process). These companies know that we will spend almost limitless amounts of money to achieve vanity projects with no work whatsoever. The fact that American companies are pushing products with açaí in them for $86 dollars and upwards is just more reason to believe that the only way these products actually help you "lose weight" is by taking even more money out of your wallet. The fact that these products don't even exist in Brazil should cement the case against them.

So Americans, do what Brazilians - who grow açaí and kind of know a lot about what it can do and can't - do: enjoy açaí for its great taste and refreshing qualities, and don't expect any more.