The truth behind acai bowls, Instagram’s favorite smoothie trend
Why drink a smoothie from a straw when you can scoop it from a bowl?
Acai bowls are thicker than traditional smoothies and come adorned with an assortment of colorful toppings, like coconut flakes and goji berries. Their vibrant color and artistic presentation is half the appeal – Nicolette Sarvis, a registered dietitian, said the health benefits go even deeper.
The healthiest way to enjoy an acai bowl is as a breakfast replacement, Sarvis said. Like regular smoothies, acai bowls are made with frozen acai berries and a variety of fruits, blended with either yogurt or milk – cow’s milk, soy, coconut, or almond – and finished off with a sprinkle of toppings.
Unlike juices, smoothies contain all the fiber from the fruits and vegetables that juicing usually removes, according to Sarvis. Fiber helps people feel full longer while stabilizing blood sugar levels and normalizing bowel movements.
The fruits and vegetables in smoothie bowls also provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin C, fiber, iron, calcium and more, depending on the ingredients.
Although acai bowls are a healthy alternative to high-sugar breakfast cereals and oatmeal, Sarvis said they are not a “superfood” that can fight cancer cells or boost one’s metabolism.
It is best to focus on eating whole foods to get essential nutrients instead of using supplements or overdosing on smoothies, Sarvis said.
“Often, people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day so finding a new way to incorporate fruits and vegetables into the diet is very beneficial,” Sarvis said.
UB does not currently offer smoothie bowls at any of its dining locations. Jamba Juice offers acai bowls at other locations, but not at its storefront in the Student Union.
Alexis Glauber, a sophomore business major, enjoys getting acai bowls from Squeeze Juicery with friends, especially in the summer as a refreshing alternative to ice cream.
“I eat acai bowls because I like that there are things added such as granola and fresh fruit on top so you’re not just drinking a regular smoothie,” Glauber said. “In a way, it tricks my mind that I’m being healthy because they taste and look so good.”
Squeeze’s menu features bowls, juices, salads and wraps at its two locations on Main Street in Williamsville and Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.
One of Squeeze’s most popular bowls is the Barbie Girl made from blended dragon fruit, raspberry, mango and apple, topped with toasted coconut, strawberries, pineapple and granola. It bursts with a naturally tart and subtly sweet flavor.
Another customer favorite is the Afternoon Delight, which features banana and blueberries, blended and topped with strawberries, banana, granola and toasted coconut.
These two bowls are great before exercising because they are not heavy meals and are lower in protein and fat, Sarvis said.
The Landslide bowl is better as a post-workout alternative. Its high protein content will keep someone fuller, longer. It features cacao, peanut butter, coconut oil and banana, blended and topped with granola, banana and toasted coconut.
“If people were to increase their fruit and vegetable intake, they would eat less of the ‘bad foods’ and would see a difference in their overall health,” Sarvis said. “Regular exercise has also been shown to increase metabolism.”
Kyra Page, a freshman psychology major, said she would eat acai bowls more often if they were closer to campus and less expensive.
“I love acai bowls but I would love them even more if they weren’t so expensive,” Page said. “Who wants to spend $9 every time they want to be healthy?”
Acai bowls can be pricey for college students; the average smoothie bowl at Squeeze rings in at $8.50 before taxes. A cheaper alternative is to make them at home, Sarvis said. She recommends buying seasonal fruit to make them even more cost-effective.
Dana Casullo is a features staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org