Out of all fruit and veg, berries have attracted the most scientific research. They are a rich source of vitamins, mineral and fibre, and their complex phytonutrient make up (in particular the ones that give them their characteristic red and purple colours - anthocyanin )is associated with a whole host of health benefits. James Wong in his fabulous book "How to Eat Better" sums up some of the latest research:
A variety of different studies have shown that blue berries can help to reduce blood pressure, they have properties which can help to reduce the statistical risk of cardiac arrest by as much as 34%. Liberal berry consumption has been associated with a reduction in harmful LDL cholesterol, raising healthy HDL cholesterol and reducing chronic inflammation. The good news is - that it can do it pretty quickly, some studies showed results within 4 weeks.
A diet rich in berries in the elderly has been reported to help slow down the rate of mental decline. There is even a very small trial by the USDA Human Nutrition Centre which showed that adding 11/2 glasses of blueberry juice to the diets of elderly people with cognitive decline actually improved their results in tests for memory and learning, as well as decreasing symptoms of depression after just 3 months.
There is also some evidence that the synergy and interaction of of all of the nutrients and other bioactive comments in nuts and berries can have a beneficial effect on the brain and cognition.
Modern lifestyles often lead to excessive, sustained inflammation due to increased stress, inadequate physical activity and unhealthy food choices. This kind of stress is thought to be responsible for some forms of cancer. As with many other types of fruit and veg there are test tube studies which have shown that berries can help fight the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation thought to be responsible for some forms of cancer.
DIABETES AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
There is a growing collection of studies from around the world that suggest that berry intake can have a beneficial effect on diabetes and weight management, including increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing blood sugar levels and calming inflammation.
Berries are a good source of fibre, including soluble fiber, and studies have shown that consuming soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract, leading to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness. This can help with managing calorie intake.
A HEALTHY BRIGHT COMPLEXION
In addition to their many other health benefits, berries may help reduce skin wrinkling. This makes sense, given that the antioxidants in berries, especially the ellagic acid, help control free radicals, one of the leading causes of skin damage that contributes to aging. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that this antioxidant may help protect skin by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen in sun-damaged skin. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and one of its major functions is to give skin its structure, it allows skin to stretch and remain firm. When collagen is damaged, the skin is prone to sag and develop wrinkles.
The best news - berries can be enjoyed on all types of different diets ... The only people who really need to avoid berries are those who require a low-fiber diet for certain digestive disorders, or individuals who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are the most common.
Berries make a wonderful snack or dessert, whether you use one type of berry or a mixture of two or more. They can pep up a salad, or bring your roast to life. They are versatile, healthy and undeniably delicious!!
This is the nutritional content for one cup (144g) of Blackberries: