Okay, how the heck do you pronounce this flavorful fruit? It’s “ahsigh-EE.” It may be a bit hard to get your tongue around, but it is an
incredibly powerful food.
WATER-COOLER FACT: The Amazonian açai berry looks like a grape or a
blueberry but is smaller and darker. In South America, açai is simply
pureed and served warm as a sauce or even by itself in a bowl, like a
WHAT’S IN IT: One hundred grams of freeze-dried açai powder has 534
calories, 52.2 grams of carbohydrates (including 44.2 grams of fiber),
8.1 grams of protein, 1 gram of sugar, and 33 grams of fat. Açai is high
in beta-sitosterol, phytosterol that competes with cholesterol for
absorption, and lowers LDL. An excellent source of vitamin A and
potassium, açai also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, C, and E, as well as
magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and sulfur.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Helping to protect you from leukemia and
lowering bad cholesterol. Açai berry extract has been shown to kill
between 45 percent and 86 percent of human leukemia cells in the lab.
It acts as an anti-inflammatory, cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (COX-1 and
COX-2) inhibitor, which is linked to arthritis relief.
Avocados have been eaten for over eight thousand years in Central
and South America. Although I doubt that the Central Americans of that
time knew how good avocados are for you, we do now.
WATER-COOLER FACT: Avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable as many
believe. Some call it “green butter.”
WHAT’S IN IT: Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, dietary fiber,
vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium. They have 60 percent
more potassium than bananas. They are also a food source of avocado
soybean unsaponifiables, or ASUs, which are oils prescribed for
osteoarthritis pain. Avocados are rich in lutein, which protects your eyes
from cataracts and macular degeneration. One medium Haas avocado
has 227 calories and twenty-one grams of fat, which is mostly
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Avocados help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride
levels in healthy people, and in people with diabetes. After seven days of
eating an avocado-rich diet, patients had lowered total cholesterol and
LDL (“lousy”) cholesterol levels, and an 11 percent increase in HDL
(“healthy”) cholesterol. Scientists credit the high level of
monounsaturated fats and phytosterols in the avocado for this effect.
Blackberries, over the years, have gone by many names:
brambleberries, brumblekites, and lawers. In ancient England, it was
believed that blackberries should not be eaten after the middle of
October because the devil would come by and spit on each bush. I’m
pretty sure that’s not true.
WATER-COOLER FACT: Blackberries contain the highest antioxidant
content per serving size of any fresh fruit except açai.
WHAT’S IN IT: Blackberries are a good source of vitamins A, C, E, and K,
as well as folate, potassium, zinc, beta-carotene, and lutein. A 3.3 ounce
serving has only forty-three calories. Blackberries contain antioxidants
called anthocyanins, which give blackberries their deep color and
protect you from free radical damage.
British sailors are called “limeys” because in the nineteenth century
they used lime juice to prevent scurvy. But limes aren’t just for sailors—
they’re a ChefMD staple for all of us.
WATER-COOLER FACT: Limes have more citric acid than lemons. Most
limes turn yellow, like lemons, on lime trees if allowed to mature, and
they become slightly sweeter.
WHAT’S IN IT: Limes are an excellent source of vitamin C. A whole lime
has just one gram of sugar and twenty milligrams of vitamin C. Lime zest
contains limonoids (anticarcinogens) and essential oils. Conventionally
grown limes may contain pesticide residues or wax: buy organically
grown limes when possible. One average lime has twenty calories.
WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR: Fighting cancer and cholera. Of twenty-four
citrus juices analyzed, limes were the most effective in stopping T-cell
leukemia cells from proliferating. Also, the limonoids in limes inhibit the
growth of human breast cancer cells. Adding lime juice to food
prevented food-borne transmission of cholera in West Africa.