Bursting with nutrients
Jill Hillhouse, RNCP, ROHP
An overwhelming body of research has firmly establisehd that the dietary intake of berries is helpful in preventing disease, among other health benefits.
Despite their diminutive size, berries are giants in terms of the positive impact they have on our health.
An overwhelming body of research has firmly established that the dietary intake of berries is helpful in preventing disease and promoting health. Not only do berries taste wonderful, they are bursting with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and many protective antioxidants and phytochemicals, including lutein, zeaxanthin, flavonols, ellagitannins, and anthocyanidins.
Small but Mighty
These tiny super fruits have demonstrated various healthful properties.
Blueberries, especially wild ones, have a very high oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) score, a measure of their antioxidant capacity. This means they are powerful disease fighters that protect cells from free-radical damage.
Raspberries contain large amounts of ellagic acid, a compound studies have shown is potent for cancer prevention. Raspberries are also an excellent source of fibre, manganese, and vitamin C.
Strawberries are high in vitamin C; the ellagitannin content of strawberries has been associated with decreased rates of cancer death.
Cranberries are a great source of proanthocyanins, compounds that decrease the ability of infection-causing E. coli to stick to cell walls. Recent studies suggest that cranberries may also promote gastrointestinal and oral health and prevent the formation of kidney stones.
And there’s more. Berries also exhibit antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as positive effects related to the reduction of coronary heart disease. They have been found to help protect the brain from oxidative stress, and they may help to decrease the effects of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
In recent years many people have turned their attention to exotic berries from other parts of the world, including the goji berry (wolfberry) and the acai.
Goji berries have been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for millennia and are used to enhance immune function, improve eyesight, protect the liver, and reduce blood glucose levels.
Acai fruit from the Brazilian rainforest is rich in fibre and fatty acids and its deep pigmentation indicates anthocyanins, which fight the free-radical damage that has been linked to diseases such as cancer. Current animal and human studies are under way and positive data is encouraging more research.
The antioxidant and nutrient content of berries are at their peak when these tiny powerhouses are fully ripened. All berries are very perishable and, while they can stay fresh in the refrigerator for about two days, care should be taken to remove any berries that are moldy or damaged so they won’t contaminate the rest.
Water encourages spoilage, so wash your berries just before you eat them.
Whether your tastes run to the exotic or the domestic, berries provide more than just a handful of great taste.