On the television, in health magazines, on websites about wellbeing, and from your dietician and physician as well, you would’ve heard about the importance of fruits and vegetables, their richness in nutrients and thus their abundant health benefits.
But when it comes to the berries you’ll be surprised to learn how much more they have to offer!
The Berry family includes blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries. And it is precisely their different colors and varieties that give them different beneficial properties, namely phytochemicals and antioxidants that help prevent a range of diseases.
What are the health benefits of berries?
Berries in all varieties are one of the most nutrient-packed fruits. They are rich in fiber, important for a healthy gut and to prevent constipation. Berries in general are also high in phytonutrients and antioxidants (especially vitamin C). Studies have shown that these substances play a vital role in:
- Improving brain activity, coordination and memory as these phytonutrients cross the blood brain barrier, thereby enhancing existing brain cell connections and increasing the life of new brain cells.
- Enhancing the immune system and inactivating potential cancer-causing chemicals, helping reduce the risk of cancer.
- Decreasing blood pressure by maintaining healthy blood vessels and improving HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood, consequently helping decrease the chances of heart disease.
In addition, berries have a range of specific benefits:
- Cranberries:These berries (or their juice) are beneficial for bladder infection because they produce hippuric acid in the urine which acidifies it and prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder.
- Blueberries and Raspberries: These berries contain lutein, a natural, protective substance, found in the eye that protects it by blocking the harmful, high-energy blue wavelengths of visible light from both natural sunlight and indoor light – thereby helping promote healthy vision.
- Strawberries: May lower blood levels of an inflammatory substance in the body which may be helpful for reducing symptoms of arthritis.
What is the nutritional content of berries?
Berries are very rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folic acid and minerals such as potassium and calcium. They are also low in calories and can be eaten as a very nutritious light snack.
Here are the types of berries and the relevant caloric content:
|Type of Berry||Calories in 1 cup of whole berries|
It’s also important to note that 1 cup of whole strawberries contains over 100mg of vitamin C which is more than 1 cup of orange juice! Studies have also shown that blueberries have two to three times as much antioxidants in comparison to apples, broccoli, spinach and many other fruits and vegetables!
Here are some tips on how to include berries in your diet:
- Add them to your breakfast cereals or yoghurt
- Sprinkle raspberries on top of your salad
- Add them to your cakes or muffins
- Add them to milk (preferably low fat) and blend it as a smoothie
- Have them as part of your daily fruit serving whether fresh, frozen or as part of a cocktail Juice
This brings us to a very commonly asked question: Fresh or frozen – what is more beneficial?
The popular misconception is that frozen fruit do not have the same beneficial properties of fresh fruit. However this is not really the case as frozen fruits (that are immediately picked and frozen) are just as or even more nutrient rich than fresh fruits because the vitamins and minerals are locked up to preserve its nutritional value.
Simple tips to keep strawberries fresh
In the Arab world, strawberries are the most common type of berries consumed. So here are a few handy tips to make sure you get to eat the best quality:
- Do not wash until you are just ready to use them. If not using immediately, store them in a moisture-proof container in the refrigerator for two to three days. Just before serving, wash strawberries (keeping the green caps attached) under a gentle spray of cool water.
And to enjoy its health benefits, why not have a delicious berry smoothie. All you need to do is blend a cup of low fat milk with 1 banana, ½ cup of frozen blueberries and ½ cup of frozen or fresh strawberries. It’s that simple and easy and a very pleasant way to add health to your day.