If a grocery store advertisement read - “Today’s special: a food low in calories, no fat, full of fiber, may help prevent diseases, aids in weight loss and taste delicious” – would you buy it? I would hope so as this ad is talking about one of the most healthful foods nature provides – berries. Berries are just about the perfect food to eat, whether fresh or frozen, and the variety to choose from is outstanding – blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cranberries, gooseberries, loganberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
What makes berries so special
Berries have been around as a food source for centuries. Today they continue that role, but in addition to their attractive appearance and delicate taste, it’s their health-boosting ability distinguishing them from other fruits - their rich and diverse antioxidant power. Antioxidants reduce damage due to oxygen often caused by free radicals. Antioxidants include vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin E and phenolic compounds, all found in berries. Phenolic compounds include phenolic acids, flavonoids, tannins and resveratrol. Berries antioxidant power is that special boost in keeping us healthy.
Health benefits of berries
Alzheimer’s Disease – With the expanding aging population, Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia will rise in numbers in the coming years. Berries can be one way to help slow or even prevent cognitive decline. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study showed that long-term berry intake led to slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults. Polyphenolics found in berries appear to help clean up damage from the build-up of toxins over time.
Cancer – Don’t let berries delicate appearance fool you – they have an arsenal of nutrient grenades to help fight off cancer. The arsenal includes anthocyanins, flavonoids, and ellagic acid. Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant helping to deactivate specific carcinogens and slows the reproduction of cancer cells. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are extremely rich in these compounds. Don’t forget about blackberries as they have been shown to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is when new blood vessels form helping tumors to transition from a benign state to a malignant state. Including more of these dark-colored fruit to your diet may reduce your risk of colon, breast, lung, skin, esophageal and cervical cancers.
Heart Disease – A study from the Journal of the American Heart Association showed eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week reduced the risk of heart attack in women. Blueberries and strawberries contain flavonoids along with anthocyanins giving them their bright colors. Together, these compounds help to dilate arteries reducing the buildup of plaque which narrows arteries reducing blood flow. All brightly colored berries provide this same protection so fill up your plate with the many hues of berries.
Parkinson Disease – Men and women had a 25% reduction of developing Parkinson’s disease if they ate berries two or more times each week according to a study from the American Academy of Neurology. Flavonoids, once again, is the compound responsible for helping to protect brain cells from damage. Men who consumed berries containing flavonoids benefitted the most by having a 40% less likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Weight Control – Berries are a boon in weight control. Loaded with fiber and a high water content, they help give a feeling of fullness or satiety. One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 grams of fiber, one cup of loganberries has 7.8 grams while raspberries have an impressive 8 grams of fiber in one cup. The nice thing about berries is after washing them they are ready to eat as is.
Arthritis – Berries play an important role in helping ease the symptoms associated with arthritis. Due to their antioxidant strength, eating berries can protect against inflammation and free radicals by turning off the inflammation signals triggered by cytokines and COX-2. Make it a daily habit to eat one-half to one cup of mixed berries to achieve the benefits.
Urinary Tract Infections – The berry best known for its ability to lower the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) is the cranberry. Cranberries contain high levels of proanthocyanidins that reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls reducing infections. Drinking 8 ounces of cranberry juice daily may help prevent a UTI and speed recovery if an infection does occur.
Hypertension – The amazing anthocyanin, that powerful antioxidant giving blueberries and strawberries their vibrant color, can also keep your blood vessels free of plaque allowing for unobstructed blood flow leading to a lowered blood pressure. Include berries of all kinds each day to get the best advantage.
Today, go out and buy yourself some berries. Whether they’re on sale or not, berries are always a bargain for keeping you healthy and preventing disease.
ABOUT CHERYL MUSSATTO | REGISTERED DIETITIAN
Cheryl Mussatto has over 30 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian and has worked in a variety of settings that cover a wide span of nutrition experience. Currently she works as an adjunct professor for two community colleges, Allen Community College in Burlingame and Butler Community College in Council Grove, Kansas teaching two courses, Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition. She is a consulting dietitian for the Cotton O’Neil Medical Clinic in Osage City doing individualized nutrition counseling. Cheryl also is a contributing author for osagecountyonline.com, an online newspaper and Edietitians, a global free nutritional and health magazine. Her articles for both publications pertain to nutrition topics that cover a diversity of health and nutrition interests for the general public. She is also certified as a health and wellness coach. Visit her website atwww.eatwell2bewellrd.com and Facebook page: Eat Well 2 Be Well.