Short answer, yes!
Long answer, YYYYYYYYYEEEEEEESSSSS!
Okay, before I go off on a rant here let me make this very clear, if you learn nothing else from me about phytonutrients and you own health learn this; increasing the amount of berries you regularly consume may well be the biggest step toward good health that you can take. Period!
First thing first. A recent study noted that the average US or UK citizen eats the equivalent of one (1) russet potato every day (high calorie and low nutrient) and just ONE TALBESPOON of berries every 2 weeks!!! (low calorie and mega nutrients!)
That is totally insane, folks!!!!!!!!
James Joseph, PhD, director of the Neuroscience Lab at the United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, which conducted the study, notes that people become more susceptible to the damaging effects of free radicals and inflammation as they age. Berries help prevent those effects by turning off the inflammation signals triggered by cytokines and COX-2s, he says, making them an ideal part of your diet.
To get the optimal health benefits of berries, eat two to three types of fresh, frozen or dehydrated berries each day.
- Strawberries contain more vitamin C in a one-cup serving than one orange and are particularly high in folic acid.
- Blueberries contain 20 types of anthocyanin – antioxidants that give berries their blue-violet and red colors. Other berries contain only three or four types.
- Blackberries, Raspberries and Boysenberries each contains 8 grams (g) of fiber in one cup – one-third the daily recommended amount (25 g).
In addition to antioxidants, berries are “juicy foods,” which means they contain mostly water. Juicy foods are great for losing weight because they fill you up quickly, since their high water content bumps up the volume while driving down the calories. Berries also contain fiber and folate. Fiber aids in weight loss and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Folate may protect against cardiovascular disease and age-related memory loss, and since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may also help ward off depression and improve your mood. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS experience discomfort after eating berries.
Remember, if you can’t find fresh berries, frozen (unsweetened) berries are a good substitute during the off-season months — and just as nutritious! But if you want to keep them just as nutritious you need to thaw them quickly in the microwave and not slowly! They are flash frozen which preserves almost all of their nutrition but if you allow them to thaw slowly they can lose over half of their phytonutrients before you ever eat them! Flash freezing and flash defrosting is the best way to keep the berries as healthy as they can possible be.
- Blackberries - are composed of more than 85 percent water along with a hefty dose of fiber, which makes them a great fruit to eat if you’re trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol, or manage type 2 diabetes. They are a good source of folate, a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy hair and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and mood disorders. Additionally, blackberries are full of potent antioxidants that can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, cataracts, and other eyesight problems.
- Blueberries - consist of 85 percent water, which makes them a great fruit to eat if you’re trying to lose weight. They also contain potent antioxidants that can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, and cataracts and other eyesight problems.
- Boysenberries - are a cross of raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries, and they look like a jumbo version of a blackberry. Boysenberries contain anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants that can help with arthritis and age-related memory loss.
- Cranberries - fresh cranberries are composed of more than 85 percent water along with a hefty dose of fiber, but they are rarely eaten fresh since they are so sour and astringent. Instead, cranberries are most often eaten in sweetened form either as dried cranberries or sugary cranberry sauce, and because these foods are concentrated sources of sugar, people with type 2 diabetes should dramatically limit their intake. Both fresh and dried cranberries are a good source of anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory antioxidants that can help with arthritis and age-related memory loss.
- Raspberries - are composed of more than 85 percent water along with a hefty dose of fiber, which makes them a great fruit to eat if you’re trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol, or manage type 2 diabetes. They are also full of potent antioxidants, including vitamin C and anthocyanins, which can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, cataracts and other eyesight problems, maintain healthy skin and hair.
- Strawberries - are composed of more than 90 percent water along with a hefty dose of fiber, which makes them a great fruit to eat if you’re trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol or manage type 2 diabetes. They are a good source of folate, a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy hair and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and mood disorders. Additionally, strawberries are full of potent antioxidants, including vitamin C and anthocyanins, which can help with arthritis, age-related memory loss, cataracts and other eyesight problems, and again, maintaining healthy skin and hair.
In a study of 72 middle-age people published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating just under a cup of mixed berries daily for eight weeks was associated with increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure, two positives when it comes to heart health. Included in the mix were strawberries, red raspberries and bilberries—similar to blueberries—as well as other berries more common in Finland (where the research was conducted): black currants, lingonberries and chokeberries.
“At the moment we do not know which berry, or berries, could have been the most active,” says Iris Erlund, Ph.D., senior researcher at the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki and lead author of the study.
But, in fact, the diverse range of polyphenols—a broad class of health-promoting plant compounds that includes anthocyanins and ellagic acid—provided by the mix of berries is likely responsible for the observed benefits. Polyphenols may increase levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that produces a number of heart-healthy effects. One is helping to relax blood vessels, which subsequently results in lowered blood pressure, says Erlund.
Polyphenols may also help preserve bone density after menopause, according to new research in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Our bones are constantly “turning over”—breaking down and building back up. After menopause, when estrogen levels plummet, bone breakdown outpaces bone formation, and the result is bone loss, a risk factor for osteoporosis. In the study, rats that had their ovaries removed (to mimic an estrogen-deprived postmenopausal state) and were fed blueberries every day for three months significantly increased their bone density, scientists at Florida Study University discovered. “We believe that polyphenols in the berries slowed the rate [of bone turnover], ultimately saving bone,” says Bahram Arjmandi, Ph.D., R.D., the study’s lead author and professor and chair of the department of nutrition, food and exercise sciences at FSU. More research is needed to know for sure whether the benefits translate to humans but, says Arjmandi, the data suggest that eating even a small amount of blueberries each day—perhaps as little as 1⁄4 cup—could be good for anyone’s bones.
I am very pleased that my wife and I are among those people that eat FAR more than the national average of berries every week. How about you? Let me know in the comments section and feel free to share you favorite way to eat berries, too.