5 Science-Backed Reasons Berries Are One of the Healthiest Foods on Earth

Whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, berries are a healthy addition to your diet. They have little fat and lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support health. These red and blue orbs are also a tasty addition to any diet. Whether you enjoy them fresh or frozen, berries are a top choice for your health and wellness. Here are five reasons why.

 

Berries for Brain Health

Blueberries contain considerable amounts of anthocyanins, which provide antioxidant support for brain health. Blueberries also contain copious quantities of an antioxidant called pterostilbene. Early research points to the role pterostilbene may play in reducing age-related cognitive decline.

 

Many neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s are associated with oxidative stress that causes free radicals to attack the neurons of our brain. Berries contain antioxidants including anthocyanins, quercetin, ellagic acid, and resveratrol that fight oxidative stress, preventing these degenerative diseases by removing free radicals from the brain cells.

 

While there’s no evidence that eating berries can reverse these conditions, they could play a role in prevention.

 

Heart Health and Berries

Understanding how berries affect the heart is simple. Berries are high in anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants that protect the heart by neutralizing free radicals that can damage blood vessels and oxidize LDL cholesterol.

 

Studies also show that compounds in berries improve endothelial function, how blood vessels respond to stress. Healthy endothelial function helps with blood pressure control and may lower the risk of clots forming than can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

 

Plus, berries may enhance heart health in another way, by their effects on blood lipids. One study found that subjects with insulin resistance who consumed a drink made from freeze-dried strawberries experienced an 11 percent drop in LDL cholesterol, the kind linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

Benefits for Blood Sugar Control

Several studies show red and blue berries lower the blood sugar response to a meal. Studies that show this were conducted in obese adults with insulin resistance. Being a rich source of fiber and inflammation-reducing compounds, it’s not surprising that berries offer this benefit.

 

Another study found that prediabetics who consumed bioactive compounds in blueberries for six weeks experienced improvements in insulin sensitivity. A bowl of berries can be a satisfying substitute for other desserts that aren’t as easy on your blood sugar too.

 

Berries Are Rich in Vitamin C

If you’re looking for a vitamin C-rich berry, choose strawberries. A cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than another popular vitamin C source, the orange. Vitamin C is important for maintaining healthy skin and joints, for wound healing, and for immune health. It’s also an antioxidant vitamin that helps protect against free radicals that damage cells and tissues. Humans can’t make their own vitamin C, and it’s a water-soluble vitamin that gets flushed out of your system quickly. Therefore, you need vitamin C in your diet daily. Berries are an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough.

 

Can Berries Lower the Risk of Cancer?

Berries, particularly blueberries, are rich in phenolic compounds that have potential anti-cancer activity. It’s too early to say whether berries have the potential for preventing or treating cancer, but scientists have identified ways in which they could be beneficial:

Anti-inflammatory activity

Reduction in oxidative stress

Reduce DNA damage

Increased cell death of cancer cells

Scientists are busy exploring these possibilities and will know more in the future. Until then, eat a variety of colorful, whole foods that include berries.

 

Get the Tasty Benefits

Berries are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and they’re also among the most delicious. As a bonus, they’re easy to pack and carry with you while traveling or taking a hike in the woods, and they rank high on the nutrient density scale, the percentage of nutrients per calorie. How can you enjoy their benefits?

 

Toss them into a smoothie: Berries are delicious and a good source of antioxidants. So why not try adding a couple of handfuls into your next smoothie? They blend well and add a touch of natural sweetness to any smoothie.

 

Add them to salads: Do you like to top your salad with nuts? Why do that when you can use berries instead? Or you could use both. Berries and nuts are some of the more nutrient-dense plant-based foods you can add to a salad.

 

Use them in desserts: Desserts are the perfect way to finish off any meal. And since berries are sweet and delicious, they’re the perfect ingredient for dessert recipes. Try mixing fresh berries into your banana bread or adding berry sauce on top of your favorite cake. If you’re going to eat dessert, make sure it’s as nutrient-dense as possible.

 

Add them to hot cereal: Berries can liven up a bowl of oatmeal with flavor and nutrients. Your morning porridge will have an extra touch of natural sweetness when you add berries. Being smaller in size, blueberries are a tasty and healthy option. And why stop with hot cereal; add  berries to regular cereal, too.

 

Now that you know how nutrient-dense berries are and how to eat them, be sure to add them to your shopping list.

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References:

Natural Product Insider. “Berry Science”

J. Agric. Food Chem., 56 (3), 636-641, 2008.

Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. J Nutr. 2010 Oct;140(10):1764-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.125336. Epub 2010 Aug 19. PMID: 20724487; PMCID: PMC3139238.

Br J Nutr. 2008 Jul;100(1):70-8.

BBC News. “Cranberries Block Tooth Decay”

“Berry Good for Your Heart | Johns Hopkins Medicine.” hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/berry-good-for-your-heart.

Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. J Nutr. 2010 Oct;140(10):1764-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.125336. Epub 2010 Aug 19. PMID: 20724487; PMCID: PMC3139238.

Basu A, Fu DX, Wilkinson M, Simmons B, Wu M, Betts NM, Du M, Lyons TJ. Strawberries decrease atherosclerotic markers in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Nutr Res. 2010 Jul;30(7):462-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.06.016. PMID: 20797478; PMCID: PMC2929388.

Johnson SA, Arjmandi BH. Evidence for anti-cancer properties of blueberries: a mini review. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Oct;13(8):1142-8. doi: 10.2174/18715206113139990137. PMID: 23387969.

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