16.MAY.2019 3 MIN READ | 3 MIN READ

This latest food trend that’s been sweeping Instagram is often praised as a delicious and healthy breakfast choice. But is it really?

Acai berries are known to contain lots of antioxidants and fibre – making them, arguably, a healthier breakfast choice than, say, kaya toast or roti prata. But have you considered the amount of sugar an acai bowl contains?

Where is the sugar coming from?

The acai berry, when eaten on its own, actually tastes bitter. This is why commercial bowl brands tend to add artificial syrups and sugar in the recipe to mask the taste. The mixture may also be blended with sweetened soy or almond milk, and fruit juice, which further contributes to the sugar levels.

An average-sized acai bowl can have anywhere from 21 – 62g of sugar per serving. The World Health Organisation recommends adults and children to keep their sugar intake at no more than 10% of their total energy intake, which is roughly 45g for a 1,800kcal diet, to reduce risks of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

Sugar from toppings
There will also be additional natural sugar from the fruits that go on top – such as bananas, mango and coconut. When you add even more sweet toppings, such as honey and chocolate sprinkles, you could be dangerously close to consuming close to 1,000 calories per acai bowl! This makes the nutrient-dense acai bowl potentially a pitfall to sabotage your weight loss progress.

An average Singaporean man and woman needs approximately 2,200kcal and 1,800kcal respectively a day to maintain their weight. That’s not to say you have to forgo these potential sugar bombs completely, though. Here are some practical tips:

Watch your portions

Acai bowls contain puree and fruit that have been blended together, hence the fibre is lost and you may not be as full as if you ate the fruit whole. This may result in overeating and consuming more calories than you can burn if you’re not careful!

Check the list of ingredients

Go for unsweetened acai berry puree if you can, and look for bowls that have fewer of the ingredients or toppings that will add to the sugar levels. When buying acai bowls outside, ask what goes into it.

Opt for half fruit, half veg

At outlets where you can create your own bowl, limit the amount of fruit including the acai to one cup and have the rest of the ingredients be vegetables, such as zucchini or cauliflower. Avoid overly sweet toppings.

Homemade is best

Homemade is the best
The best way to control the sugar content is to make your own bowl at home! Add pumpkin blended into unsweetened puree for natural sweetness with added fibre. Opt for unsweetened nut milk, and natural unsweetened Greek yoghurt or nut butter as well as avocado for protein and fat. You need the protein and fat to give you a feeling of fullness and to keep your blood sugar stable so you don’t get hungry later on.
 

In short, if you are mindful of the added ingredients that go into your acai bowl, as well as the portion size per serving, you can still enjoy this delicious breakfast and reap the benefits of the acai berry without taking in all the unwanted sugar and calories!

 

Article reviewed by Daphne Loh, senior dietitian at Gleneagles Hospital

References

Why acai bowls are making you fat. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2019 from https://gundrymd.com/are-acai-bowls-healthy/

Brickell, S. This popular breakfast dish might not be as healthy as you think. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2019 from https://www.health.com/nutrition/acai-bowl-nutrition

Wait, are acai bowls really healthy? 1 October 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2019 from https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/are-acai-bowls-healthy/

16.MAY.2019
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Daphne Loh Ee Teng
Senior Dietitian
Gleneagles Hospital

Ms Loh is an accredited dietitian with the Singapore Nutrition & Dietetics Association.