Smoothie bowls have been popular for several years, and the trend all started with the acai (ah-sigh-EE) bowl.
Acai berries are small, dark purple, blueberry-like fruit grown on palm trees in South and Central America. Although they look like berries (and we will call them such) they are technically drupes like apricots or plums since they contain a pit.
Acai’s use in smoothie bowls originated in Brazil, and since they are usually only found fresh in these areas, you typically find them in the form of frozen acai puree in the U.S.
Benefits of Acai
Acai berries are high in antioxidants, rich in fatty acids, and are majorly anti-inflammatory. This is due to the nutrients they contain like protocatechuic acid, procyanidins, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and epicatechin.
Specifically, the antioxidant anthocyanin is a powerhouse. (Source)
- It may lower oxidative stress and inflammation, promoting brain health.
- Regular consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women.
- It also engagees in anticarcinogenic activities.
The many nutrients in acai have been shown to:
- Improve cognitive function
- Alleviate Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
- Improve heart health
- Contain anti-cancerous properties
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one 3-gram teaspoon of acai berry powder contains:
- 20 calories
- 0 g protein
- 1.5 g total fat
- 1 g carbohydrate
- 1 g fiber
- 6 milligrams (mg) calcium
And the high ORAC value of Acai is 102,700! Whew! No wonder it is considered a superfood. Not to mention that a sweet, cold treat like an acai bowl is a delicious alternative to a bowl of ice cream!
Many restaurants and juice bars offer acai bowls now, but purchasing them this way is not always cost effective. It’s beneficial to learn to make your own so you can enjoy any time you want.
Using Acai in Your Smoothie Bowl
Going Back to the Basics
Acai bowls start with a frozen acai pack. I highly recommend reading the ingredients closely and choosing ones that are unsweetened so that you can control exactly how sweet you want your smoothie bowl to be. The classic bowls often included a frozen banana, fruit like strawberries and blueberries, some chia seeds to put on top, shredded coconut on top, and occasionally a little agave or honey in order to sweeten up the smoothie bowl.
A loose recipe for a delicious acai bowl looks something like:
- 1 frozen acai pack
- ½ frozen banana
- handful frozen mixed berries
- ½ c cashew or almond milk
- splash of all natural apple juice
Blend the items above, adding liquid or fruit to adjust the texture to your liking. Top with your toppings of choice!
Easy! Now that you know the basic formula, you can get as creative as you like.
New Types of Smoothie Bowls
Over time, the smoothie bowls have evolved from just being acai bowls, to being another way to make delicious and nutritious smoothies. Some of the smoothie bases still use acai packs, but many of them instead use other fruits, vegetables, yogurt and milk, nuts, seeds, and lots of other ingredients.
There are many different variations of smoothie bowls, from using tropical fruit and dairy-free yogurt, to a dessert bowl that has cacao and almond butter. Some do more of a traditional smoothie with bananas and strawberries, while others are using lots of goji berries and chia seeds along with the acai berries.
As you can see, you have a variety to choose from!
More Tips for Making a Killer Smoothie Bowl
When you are done blending your smoothie, adjusting the thickness, and pouring it into a bowl, the next step is to add your toppings. Some toppings make it prettier, such as choosing a variety of colors, but they are all good for you! Here are some toppings options to use on your smoothie bowls.
Make it Sweet with Cacao Nibs
This is a really fun topping, and one that goes great with fruit bowls. If you ever have a smoothie bowl with banana and peanut butter in it, definitely consider using cacao. Cacao powder is often used inside the bowl to make it creamier and add a chocolate flavor, but you can also sprinkle some on top. Cacao nibs are bits of raw, dark chocolate that doesn’t have added sugar or processed ingredients. This is a great topping for the bowl and also for adding some natural sweetness, but not too much.
Try Coconut on Top
One of the most popular toppings for a smoothie bowl is coconut shavings. These really taste great with any smoothie bowl, from green smoothie bowls with lots of veggies, to any of the acai and fruit smoothie bowls. The coconut shavings are lightly flavored and pair perfectly with more tropical fruit smoothies. Plus, they have a lot of amazing health benefits.
Add Protein with Seeds and Nuts
Another topping you can use on top of your smoothie bowl is any combination of nuts and seeds that you like. Some common ones include slivered almonds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Chia seeds are one of my favorite options since they have omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, and a lot of nutrients.
Use Your Favorite Fruit
Not only are berries perfect for blending up your smoothie bowl, but they are beautiful when placed on top of the bowl as well. You can go with classic options such as blueberries and raspberries, slice up some fresh strawberries, or go with something more unique like goji berries. These are a reddish purple color and are great for your skin, eye health, blood sugar, and providing more antioxidants your body needs.
Go Light on the Sweetener
With all this fruit, your bowl is likely sweet enough already! However if you still need that extra sweet taste, choose a natural option like local honey and drizzle it lightly on top.
Have you tried making an acai bowl before? Let me know if you do in the comments! I would love to see what your favorite toppings are.