If a grocery store advertisement read, “Today’s special: a food that is low in calories, has no fat, is full of fiber, may help prevent diseases, aids in weight loss, and tastes delicious,” would you buy it? This ad would be talking about one of the most healthful foods nature provides: berries.
Whether fresh or frozen, berries are just about the perfect food to eat, and the variety to choose from is outstanding: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cranberries, gooseberries, loganberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Berries’ Special Power
Berries have been around as a food source for centuries. In addition to their attractive appearance and delicate taste, their rich and diverse antioxidant power distinguishes them from other fruits.
Antioxidants reduce damage due to oxygen often caused by free radicals. Antioxidants include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), carotenoids, vitamin E and phenolic compounds—all of which are found in berries. Vitamin C and phenolic compounds are particularly abundant. Phenolic compounds include phenolic acids, flavonoids, tannins and resveratrol. Berries’ antioxidant power provides a special boost that keeps us healthy.
8 Health Conditions Berries Benefit
- Alzheimer’s disease. With the aging population expanding, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will rise in numbers in the coming years. Berries can help slow or even prevent cognitive decline. Data from the Nurses’ Health Study showed that long-term berry intake led to slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults. Polyphenolics found in berries appear to help clean up damage from the build-up of toxins over time.
- Cancer. Don’t let berries’ delicate appearance fool you—they have an arsenal of nutrient grenades that fight off cancer, including anthocyanins, flavonoids and ellagic acid. Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant helping to deactivate specific carcinogens and slowing the reproduction of cancer cells. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are extremely rich in these compounds. Don’t forget about blackberries; they have been shown to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is when new blood vessels form, helping tumors to transition from a benign state to a malignant state. Including more of this dark-colored fruit to your diet may reduce your risk of colon, breast, lung, skin, esophageal and cervical cancers.
- Heart disease. A study from the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation showed that eating three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week reduced the risk of heart attack in women. Blueberries and strawberries contain flavonoids, and their bright colors come from a sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins. Together, these compounds help dilate arteries, reducing the buildup of plaque, which narrows arteries and reduces blood flow. Consuming other brightly colored berries can provide this same protection, so fill up your plate with as many hues as possible.
- Parkinson’s disease. Men and women had a 25 percent reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease if they ate berries two or more times each week according to a study from the American Academy of Neurology. Flavonoids, once again, are the compounds responsible for protecting brain cells from damage. Men who consumed berries containing flavonoids benefitted the most, having a 40 percent less likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease.
- Weight control. Berries are loaded with fiber and have a high water content, which together provide a feeling of fullness or satiety. One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 grams of fiber, one cup of loganberries has 7.8 grams, and raspberries have an impressive 8 grams of fiber in one cup.
- Arthritis. Berries ease the symptoms associated with Arthritis due to their antioxidant strength. Eating berries can protect against inflammation and free radicals by turning off the inflammation signals triggered by cytokines and COX-2. Make it a daily habit to eat one-half to one cup of mixed berries to reap the benefits.
- Urinary tract infections. The berry best known for its ability to lower the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) is the cranberry. Cranberries contain high levels of proanthocyanidins that reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to the urinary tract walls, thereby reducing infections. Drinking eight ounces of cranberry juice daily may help prevent a UTI and speed recovery if an infection does occur.
- Hypertension. The amazing anthocyanin, the powerful antioxidant that gives blueberries and strawberries their vibrant color, can also keep your blood vessels free of plaque, allowing for unobstructed blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
So go out and buy yourself some berries. Whether they’re on sale or not, berries are always a smart choice to keep you healthy and prevent disease.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook.