Fruits and Vegetables

Berries: Reap the Nutritional Benefits

June 18, 2018   /

 

Reviewed and updated by Anne Danahy, MS, RDN, LDN

 

Delicious, beautiful, sweet, and simple—berries are as healthful as they are diverse. With breakfast, as a snack, in a salad, or for dessert, simply pick, wash, and eat them to reap the nutritional benefits they offer. Recent research has focused on how and why berries are such a superfood.

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From high-vitamin concentrations to anticancer-fighting activity, here is the bottom line on the benefits from eating berries:

  • Phytochemicals and flavonoids:
    • Anthocyanins create the beautiful colors found in berries
    • Responsible for the cancer-fighting compounds and disease prevention
    • Possibly helpful in the prevention of cancer (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries)
    • Maintain brain health and cognitive function
  • Vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex:
    • Abundant in most berries, especially strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries
    • Responsible for immune functioning, antioxidant benefits, maintaining connective tissue, reducing inflammation 
  • Fiber:
    • Improves cholesterol and blood glucose levels
    • Maintains a healthy gastrointestinal tract
    • May reduce the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer

Cherries

Cherries have a short season, but are a great choice dried or frozen. They are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and anthocyanidins, and are associated with promoting heart health and reducing cancer risk. Cherries can also reduce inflammation, and studies have shown that eating cherries can reduce muscle pain and soreness after exercise.

Strawberries

Strawberries are rich in folate, which is one of several B vitamins found in food. Folate is responsible for making healthy new cells and preventing anemia and neural tube defects in developing fetuses.

Blueberries

Blueberries are high in antioxidants that neutralize free-radical damage to the collagen matrix of cells and tissues, which can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease, and cancer. The properties that help them do this are phytonutrients called anthocyanins. Blueberries are also associated with improved brain health and cognitive function.

Cranberries

Cranberries are best known for their ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to bladder cells. Recent studies suggest that they also may promote gastrointestinal and oral health; prevent the formation of kidney stones; lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL); raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol; aid in recovery from stroke; and even help prevent cancer.

Red raspberries

Raspberries are best known for their role in neutralizing free radicals and for their antioxidant benefits. They are also high in manganese, vitamin C, riboflavin, folate, and niacin. In addition, raspberries are a good source of dietary fiber.

Blackberries

Marionberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and other blackberries are high in gallic acid, rutin, and ellagic acid. They are a known chemopreventative, with antiviral and antibacterial properties. With their dark-blue color, blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of fruits regularly tested. Blackberries are also rich in vitamin C and fiber, which is shown to help reduce the risks of certain cancers.

Acai and pomegranate juices

Recently people are recognizing juices of acai and pomegranate (not a berry, but with berrylike properties) as super foods, because of their high-vitamin concentrations and antioxidant properties. Acai is a very delicate berry and is only available in the United States in dried, or juice form. In general, juices are less nutritious than whole berries, so use them in moderation.

Some berry tips

These tips may help when shopping for berries:

  • Try to consume berries when they are at their peak, remembering that berry seasons are short
  • Look for farmers’ markets that sell berries picked that morning, because berries begin to lose their nutrition as soon as they are picked
  • Purchase berry containers that contain brightly colored, plump, and unbroken fruit
  • Avoid buying berry containers that hold broken, stained, leaky, or moldy berries
  • Choose frozen berries if fresh berries are not available—frozen berries tend to lose water and are best used in smoothies and berry sauces, or for cooking or baking

 

References and recommended readings

  1. Berry Health Benefits Network. Fact sheets. Available at: http://berryhealth.fst.oregonstate.edu/health_healing/fact_sheets/index.htm. Accessed April 2, 2018.
  2. Bowtell JL, Aboo-Bakkar Z, Conway ME, Adlam AL, Fulford J. Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017;42(7):773-779.
  3. Cherry Marketing Institute. About ChooseCherries.com. Available at: http://www.choosecherries.com/about.aspx. Accessed April 2, 2018.
  4. Cranberry Institute. Health research. Available at: https://www.cranberryinstitute.org/health_research/Healthresearch_HR.html. Accessed April 2, 2018.
  5. Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Laugero KD. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):368.
  6. Nile SH, Park SW. Edible berries: Bioactive components and their effect on human health. Nutrition. 2014;30(2):134-144.

 

Current review date: 4/2/18

Previous review date: 8/29/12