Berries are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods. I try to get berries into our meals regularly during the summer months, and store up on frozen berries for the months when they are not in season. Because strawberries are #1 on the EWG Dirty Dozen list, I don’t use them often. During fall and the winter months, I stock up on cranberries.
Berries provide powerful benefits to our health. Here is what I learned from SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, Steven Pratt MD, and supplemented by other sources.
- Heart health: Blueberry’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol all support heart health. The fiber in blueberries helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. A recent study, suggests that berries may reduce the risk of heart disease, due to their high content of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are part of a sub-class of flavonoids (natural plant chemicals), which may help counter plaque buildup and improve cardiovascular health. According to the study, women who eat three or more servings a week of blueberries or strawberries may reduce their risk of heart disease
- Mental health: Population-based studies have shown that consumption of blueberries can reduce the risk of cognitive declineas well as Parkinson’s disease. Blueberries in particular may improve motor skills and reverse age-related short-term memory loss, and may also protect the brain from stroke damage.
- Digestive health; rich in pectin (a soluble fiber) blueberries relieve both diarrhea and constipation.
- Anti-aging benefits: Berries seemed to slow and even reverse many of the degenerative diseases associated with an aging brain.
- Research suggests berries have anti-cancer properties. Blueberries provide another antioxidant known as ellagic acid. Research suggests this antioxidant blocks the metabolic pathways that can promote cancer. Various studies demonstrated that people who consume fruits with the most ellagic acid were three times less likely to develop cancer than those who consume little or no dietary ellagic acid. Increased blood levels of antioxidants have been shown to favorably modify incidences of blood cancer
Blueberries combine more powerful disease-fighting antioxidants than any other fruit or vegetables. Just one serving of blueberries provides as many antioxidants as five servings of carrots, apples, broccoli or squash.
The power of blueberries is in their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients (plant chemicals). Blueberries, particularly wild blueberries, have at least five different anthocyanins (a plant chemical) giving blueberries powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Anthocyanin also works synergistically with vitamin C and other key antioxidants. They strengthen the capillary system by promoting the production of quality collagen – the building block of tissues. This subclass of flavonoids also promotes vasodilatation and has an aspirin-like effect on blood clot formation, making berries important for heart health.
Scientific studies reaffirm the basis for many remedies known from traditional therapeutic use of grapes and berry products in folk medicine.
For more health empowerment:
The consumption of blueberries and strawberries is associated with delayed cognitive aging by as much as 2.5 years
Blueberry consumption may double the population of our cancer fighting immune cells, and the spices cardamom and black pepper may boost their activity
Some of my “berry” favorite recipes