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YOURWELLNESSSPA 62 DAYSPA | AUGUST 2016 fi ve years to begin producing fruit, which develops a deep blue-purple hue and reaches 1-2 centimeters in diameter. Acai berries' purple-red pulp surrounds a large seed, which constitutes about 80% of the fruit. During the Amazon's dry season (July to Decem- ber), acai berries are picked and immediately fl ash-pas- teurized and frozen; when left unprocessed, the fruit quickly oxidizes and loses nutrients. Consequently, the berries themselves are diffi cult to fi nd in North America. Instead, acai is retailed in the form of juices, capsules, tablets, freeze-dried powders and frozen mixtures. Native peoples use acai's rind to make a topical ulcer rinse; its oil to treat diarrhea; crushed acai seeds to break fevers; and a concentrated acai root formulation is believed to boost blood production, ease menstrual and muscle pain, and help in cases of jaundice, malaria, liver and kidney diseases, diabetes, hepatitis, hair loss and hemorrhages. BOUNTIFUL BERRY Although there's no proof that acai has any ability to curb weight gain, the fruit is high in vitamins, specifi cally vitamins B and K, which are known to help the body metabolize carbs, proteins and fats more effi ciently. Indeed, acai's reputation as a nutrient-rich blockbust- er appears to be merited. "It's considered a 'superfood' by many—I don't use that term often, but acai really fi ts the phrase because it's so rich in healthful nutrients and is loaded with disease-fi ghting, plant-based phyto- nutrients," says Los Angeles-based Melina B. Jampolis, MD. "We're learning more and more about the benefi ts of phytonutrients in both the treatment and prevention of disease," she adds. Acai's antioxidant levels are impressive too: On the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, acai has the highest value among tested fruits and vegetables, and nearly 10 times the level of wild blue- berries. Acai has long been recognized as an energy booster—100 grams (3.5 ounces) of acai contains 13% protein, whereas an egg contains roughly 12.5%. A high content of fatty acids delivers omega-3 to cell membranes, reducing infl ammation and signs of aging. HERBAL HEALTH Check out these recipes for suggestions on how to serve this lovely little superfruit at your spa. A "When acai is consumed as part of a meal, it's ideal to mix with other protein-rich foods—when combined properly, the acai allows for the absorption of additional vitamins. Acai is incredibly versatile: It can be made savory, sweet or stand-alone, but I prefer using only coconut water, mint and fresh herbs to make very simple acai juices. It's also a great ingredient to mix with earthier-tasting herbs that aren't as palatable in teas, because the fl avor of the berry helps cover the punch." —Lindsey Bro, Sambazon's Food Explorer and Culinary Director A "As I saw the popularity of acai rise, especially in Los Angeles, I decided to create an acai bowl for the Wellness section of Culina's breakfast menu. For the base, we combine almond milk, honey and frozen acai pulp, then top the bowl with goji and blueberries, house-made granola, bee pollen and bananas." —Cyrille Pannier, executive chef, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills A "Acai is naturally sugar free, so many companies add sugar to make the berry more palatable. Instead, I recommend incorporating the fruit into recipes that already contain natural sweetness from other fruits, or adding a little natural, no-calorie sweetener to taste. You can substitute acai berries or powder for any berry in a favorite smoothie recipe. The Super Anti-Oxidant Smoothie I created incorporates the berry with vanilla protein powder, spinach or kale, cold green tea, lemon juice and ground fl axseed." —Melina B. Jampolis, MD Spa-friendly luti ns © GETTY IMAGES