Without a doubt, acai berry bowls are beautiful to look at, and they happen to taste great, too. That’s probably because most of them are made up of fruit, honey, and other sweet ingredients.
To be fair, there are health benefits to acai berries. They’re packed with antioxidants, which may promote heart health and boost longevity[*]. And there are only 2 grams of net carbs per 100 grams of frozen acai berries[*]. Not terrible.
But when it comes to the whole meal, acai bowls tend to come with a lot of sugar and carbs, with very little protein and even less healthy fat.
And since they’re normally eaten in the morning, you might be missing out on some key nutrients to start your day. Not to mention setting yourself up for a blood sugar rollercoaster by eating so many carbs and sugars on an empty stomach.
Can acai bowls be a part of a healthy diet? And can you make them keto-friendly? Let’s find out.
Acai Bowl Nutrition
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the typical nutrition profile for a for 6-ounce (170-gram) acai bowl has these macros and nutrients[*]:
Fat: 6 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Carbs: 35 grams
Sugar: 19 grams
Added Sugar: 11 grams
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Fiber: 7 grams
And if you consider that most acai bowls at restaurants are much more than six ounces — they’re often three to four times that — ordering the acai could leave you consuming around 600 calories and up to 75 grams of sugar in a single sitting.
Acai Bowl Benefits
Rich in Antioxidants
There are acai berry benefits for skin and heart health, so enjoy acai berry in smoothies, shakes, trail mix, keto granola, and yes, keto-approved acai bowls.
Acai berries are high in antioxidants[*], which might improve heart health and skin due to the anti-aging effects and ability to slow free radical damage. They may also improve cholesterol levels and protect the heart, due to phytonutrients in the berry and pulp[*].
Some animal studies also suggest that acai may help boost cognition and protecting the brain from disease[*]. It’s also pretty low in carbs on its own and high in fiber, which is good for you. It’s really just when it is mixed with sugary and carb-filled items where it can rack up.
Acai berries don’t have much sugar and are a surprisingly good source of healthy fats, which sets them apart from most other fruits. Dry acai berries are nearly 50% fat by weight.
They’re also rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as iron, chromium, magnesium, and potassium[*].
In addition, other common acai bowl ingredients, like almond milk, nut butter, shredded coconut, and raw nuts and seeds, are all nutrient-dense.
Good for Your Brain
Acai berries are one of nature’s best sources of anthocyanins, powerful plant compounds that may protect the brain as it ages.
Research is still young, but studies in animals have found that anthocyanins protect the brain from damage and reduce the risk of stroke[*].
Aging rats given acai berry pulp showed less brain inflammation and improvements in their working memory[*].
Eating acai may help your brain stay sharp and keep your brain cells safe from inflammatory damage.
Cons of Most Acai Bowls
High in Sugar
A lot of commercially prepared acai bowls have between 50-75 grams of sugar, which means after eating an acai bowl, your blood sugar will likely skyrocket, and you may find yourself with a subsequent crash later on.
Excess sugar can also contribute to type 2 diabetes, weight gain, metabolic dysfunction, food cravings, and a variety of other health issues. You’re better off avoiding it.
High in Calories
Most acai bowls you’d buy at your local smoothie bar are much larger than six ounces, so that 211-calorie portion size you read about earlier goes out the window.
Many prepared acai bowls clock in at around 600-800 calories, and with such high sugar content, the bowls may not keep you full for long.
Make sure you read the serving size if you buy an acai bowl when out and stick with just one. There will probably be two to four serving sizes in the entire container.
Alternatively, you can make your own keto-friendly acai bowl using the tips below.
Can Acai Bowls be Keto-Friendly?
Yes, they can! Fortunately, acai berries are low in sugar and high in fat and protein. In addition, some of the common ingredients in acai bowls can be very nutritious and may provide a hefty dose of protein, fiber, and fat while keeping sugar and carbs low.
These might include unsweetened almond milk, nut butter, raw nuts and seeds, unsweetened shredded coconut, and low-sugar berries like raspberries and strawberries.
If you load your bowl up with these low-sugar and wholesome ingredients, the bowl can fit perfectly into a keto diet.
Making acai bowls yourself at home is probably your best bet, since you’ll have control over the ingredients, and most acai bowls you’d purchase from a juice store or eatery will likely have more sugar and carbs than you’re looking for.
How to Make Acai Bowls Healthy
It’s pretty easy to whip up an acai bowl in your own kitchen.
To make a keto-friendly acai bowl, mix acai powder with a half-serving of frozen berries (berries are lower in carbs and sugar than other fruits, and are fine in moderation on a keto diet), unsweetened almond milk, and a fatty item, like coconut cream or avocado, to thicken it up.
Then come the toppings. Go for seeds, like hemp or chia seeds, unsweetened shredded coconut and/or chopped nuts.
A great acai bowl recipe to start with might include acai berry, almond butter, avocado, and some protein to make it extra creamy and filling.
Think of adding in keto boosters too, like MCT oil, monk fruit or erythritol for some sweetness if you need it, ketone base, and collagen powder. Monk fruit and erythritol likely will not spike blood sugar, and MCT oil can improve cognition [*] and may boost ketone production [*]. And collagen offers protein, which can further boost satiety and may benefit the skin [*]. It’s a good way to sneak them in!
Have some fun with ingredients and recipes to see what you like! Including high-fat items and some protein, while keeping sugar at bay, is most important, and from there use your imagination to come up with some amazing creations!
The Takeaway: Are Acai Bowls Healthy?
While many commercially prepared acai bowls are packed with sugar, making your own acai bowl is easy and fun, and you can tailor it to your low-carb diet.
It really depends on a few factors: the ingredients, the serving size, the ratio of fruit to high-fat and high-protein items, and if any sweeteners are used (think: juice, honey, and agave, which are NOT keto).
When looking at acai berry nutrition, the bowls are made of a base of acai mixed with other fruit, like banana, tropical fruit, and berries, and a liquid, like almond milk, coconut water, or fruit juice, and then toppings galore, like nuts, seeds, granola, shredded coconut, honey, agave, cocoa nibs, and more.
As long as you choose ingredients wisely, it’s easy to enjoy an acai bowl as a ready-made breakfast (you can prep the night before) or as a light lunch.
Want more delicious, nutritious recipes? Check out our keto recipe archives for hundreds of tasty low-carb dishes made with real food ingredients.