As the CP Nutritionist I get a ton of questions from clients about all sorts of random crap they are bombarded with. Some of these items are ok, some are not so great, and they turn to me to help them figure it out.
One of the most common examples is a product called Mona-Vie. Mona-Vie is a cocktail of a ton of different fruit juices, with its big star being acai juice. Acai juice has come to the forefront of mainstream fruit juices, being lauded by people like Oprah and Dr. Nicholas Perricone as a near miracle juice. Does acai juice, and in turn Mona-Vie, live up to the billing?
The research, unfortunately, says no. Acai may be a pretty damn good fruit, and it certainly has plenty of antioxidant properties, but antioxidant capacity is just one measure of the healthfulness of a food. The ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value for acai is sky high, and this is highly touted for its application in juice blends and Mona-Vie. The problem is that ORAC is just a general, non-specific measure. ORAC doesn’t account for phenolic content, or other powerful phytochemicals that exert great health effects independent of oxidation. It is just one number among many methods to determine the benefits of a food.
One study sought to look at fruit juices from more than the ORAC angle. Seerem et al used ORAC and 3 other antioxidant tests with names too complex to worry about. They also took into account the ability of the juice to lower the oxidation rate of LDL (a powerful marker of heart disease), total polyphenol content and the actual potency of the antioxidants.
Guess what didn’t rank #1? Acai juice. It actually came in a respectable 6th. The big finisher? Pomegranate juice. Followed by red wine, concord grape juice, blackberry juice, and blueberry juice all ahead of acai.
So is acai the Superfood it is promoted to be? No. Is it still a potentially healthful addition in small amounts to the diet? Absolutely. Is Mona-Vie worth the $40-50 it sells for, or are you better off with a few ounces of some pomegranate juice every morning? My bet is on the pomegranate, which has some amazing clinical research proving real world efficacy, not theoretical lab analysis. There are a ton of healthy fruits (check out my write up on plums and kiwi) and veggies that provide astounding benefits, so don’t get locked into just one.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to get more fruits and veggies in your diet, and there are plenty of greens products to choose from that contain more than just juice, but don’t overlook just actually eating more real fruits and veggies. If raw veggies aren’t your thing, try a little juicing, here is a great recipe I stole from Jonny Bowden:
- 1 cup spinach
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 pear or apple
- ginger to taste
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