Use Indian berries like amla, jamun, phalsa, mulberry instead of acai


Go vocal for local with fresh, seasonal berries instead of freeze-dried imported acai

Chef Karishma Sakhrani recommends using locally grown berries as an alternative to acai berries. She has created recipes for nutritious bowls at Communion Cafe in Belapur. Photo/Kirti Surve Parade

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The world is our oyster, and these days, that includes ingredients from all coasts. One such recent traveler, the Brazilian acai berry, is making its presence felt in the city's smoothie bowls and drinks. Deconstructed, an acai bowl typically consists of a base made of pureed berries, blended with other fruits like bananas or blueberries, and topped with a liquid like almond milk or coconut water, granola, chopped fruit, nuts and seeds.

Nutritionist Sarah Vazirali, who practices behavioral counseling and evidence-based MI methods, emphasizes that while acai berries are a powerhouse of antioxidants, nutrients, and fiber sources, they come to us from Brazil in freeze-dried and powdered form, which leaves a significant carbon footprint. This fact should make us more responsible with our food choices.

“Their colour comes from anthocyanins, which are very beneficial,” she says. “We have a lot of free radicals in our body. The environment and the food we eat are responsible for this. Due to oxidative stress, there is a lot of inflammation, especially in the Indian population. We are leading in type 2 diabetes. The antioxidants in acai berries are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, in the frozen form, you hardly get any of it.”

Indian berries such as amla, jamun, phalsa, mulberry (mainly in winter) and jujube (Indian plum) are rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients similar to acai, but we fail to recognise this. “Be mindful of the time of day you eat berries—they are best before 4 p.m.,” says Vazirali. “Eat on an empty stomach and don’t eat as a dessert after a meal.”


Sara Vazirali and Karishma Sakhrani

Chef Karishma Sakhrani advocates using locally grown berries as a substitute for acai berries. She has prepared some nutritious bowls at Communion Cafe in Belapur using locally grown blueberries. “A squeeze of lemon juice is my secret recipe to cut down the sweetness of the berries and bananas,” says Sakhrani. “In India, we are fortunate to have a variety of locally grown berries like strawberries, blueberries and mulberries that can replace acai berries. The preparation process remains the same – mix the berries with yogurt or milk and top with local fruits, nuts and seeds. I have established connections with local farmers who supply quality ingredients directly to our kitchen. This gives me more control over the quality of the ingredients used and helps us support the local farming communities.”

Sakhrani believes that adding phalsa, jamun and even ber to bowls and smoothies can be a great way to add variety, flavour and nutritional benefits to our diet. “These berries provide nutrition equal to, if not better than, acai berries, as well as unique health benefits,” she says, sharing some delicious recipes that can be tried at home during the Indian berry season: Pair phalsa with mint, lemon and coconut. Plum goes well with ginger, cinnamon and honey, and jamun goes well with yogurt, banana and lemon.

For a refreshing jamun smoothie, she blends a cup of seedless purple berries, a banana, half a cup of almond milk, lemon and honey. She recommends serving it in a tall glass filled with ice. In her opinion, Indian berries have a tangy sweetness that sets them apart from acai berries. “I don't think international trends are always bad. Some of them inspire you to experiment in the kitchen and create your own interpretation or highlight how similar our cultures can be sometimes – for example: dalgona coffee versus whipped coffee,” she says.

Berry Bowls

>> Base: Add yogurt, coconut milk, or almond milk.
>> Jamun: Add fresh or frozen phalsa, plum and jamun.
>> Toppings: For sweetness, add granola, nuts, seeds (chia or flax), coconut shreds, and honey or maple syrup.
>> ADDITIONAL FRUITS: Pair with bananas, mangoes or pomegranates for added flavour and nutrition.

nutritional benefits

Phalsa, a summer staple in India, is a syrupy berry rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and minerals like potassium and magnesium. It has anti-inflammatory and cooling properties. Eaten till August, the berry is rich in vitamins (especially vitamin C), antioxidants and fibre. It is great for immunity and digestive health.
Jamun is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and iron. It is known for its blood sugar regulating properties and digestive benefits.



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