My last meal on Earth, I would love it to be a bowl of blueberries with cold cream. ~ Rene Redzepi Click To Tweet
We’ve all been told that getting five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will do us good. We are well aware that we need to stick to a healthy and balanced diet. But it’s all so boring, isn’t it?
Yet there’s one group of foods you might be able to get a huge benefit from, while still actually enjoying what you eat. Berries. Berries are some of the brightest, most colourful, and most succulent foods nature has to offer us. While they can often feel a bit like an accessory – a cereal topping here, a cake decoration there – we should actually be eating a lot more of them. The reason? Their many amazing benefits.
Berries can be more than just a decoration. Put a selection into a plastic container and eat them on your lunch break, or have them as a sweet but less sugary dessert. Make them a main part of your breakfast with fruit salads or just a healthy berry bowl. Here are a few examples of berries that you will definitely want to include in your daily diet!
The bright red of this fruit, dotted with yellow and topped with green, has become a design icon. But it should be something we are seeing a lot more often on our plates. Strawberries have a lot to offer: they are sweet and juicy, despite the fact that they obviously have no added sugar. In terms of antioxidants, this berry actually has a place amongst the top 10 fruits and vegetables [i].
But that’s not the only benefit it can provide – far from it. The risk of heart attack for young and middle-aged women who regularly consume strawberries (at least three servings per week) was reduced by 32%, according to a study carried out at Harvard [ii].
It looks like strawberries are good for your heart in general, as they can also decrease your risk of ischemic heart disease and cardiovascular disease [iii]. This is due to their potassium content, which has also been associated with reducing the risk of strokes. Plus, potassium helps to keep your blood pressure at normal levels, counteracting the effects of a high sodium diet [iv].
If you are diabetic, strawberries are a great choice because they have a lower glycemic index than most fruits. There are a few other areas in which strawberries may also help, although they are still being investigated – such as helping to alleviate depression.
Heading on over to the other side of the colour spectrum, blueberries are also really fantastic for health benefits. They are packed with vitamins and other elements that are vital to your health. Like your bones, for example: iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin K are all very important in this area.
You will also find some great antidotes to high blood pressure here. Along with magnesium and calcium, potassium can really help with this [v] — yet another element of the delectable blueberry. What is more, just like strawberries, blueberries contain a few great elements which will ward off heart disease. In fact, the Harvard study which found benefits to eating strawberries, above, actually found the same results with blueberries too. This is because they both contain anthocyanins, the nutritional element being tested in the study.
Blueberries also contain folate. This has a very important role in the synthesis and repair of DNA – in other words, building new cells in our bodies. It has been speculated that folate might help to prevent cancer by stopping the new cancer cells from forming [vi].
A few more diseases that you might be able to stave off with the help of a regular portion of blueberries include Parkinson’s disease, general cognitive decline, and other memory-related issues. If your short term memory is suffering, you can try eating some blueberries every day to see if it gets a little sharper.
Cranberries are considered to be a superfood, for several reasons. Most of us tend to consider them something that we eat towards the end of the year, during holiday festivities and big family meals. It’s strange that this is the case, but it’s thought to stem back to Native Americans, who were very interested in using cranberries for a range of activities. So it seems like you might want to consider adding a few more Cosmopolitans on your next night out, as they can offer some real health benefits. 😉
First of all, a half cup of cranberries contains only 25 calories; that means they’ll not only curb your hunger but do so in a very healthy way. Secondly, they have a high nutrient content, and also loaded with antioxidants. Could it get any better? Yup.
Let’s not forget that the insidious UTI (urinary tract infection) or can be infamously prevented by drinking cranberry juice or eating the berries themselves. While the science behind this is still in somewhat of a gray area, it is said it’s their high level of proanthocyanidins playing the key role.
Like most berries, cranberries could also help to prevent cardiovascular disease [vii], and they have also been proven to slow down the progression of cancerous tumours in the liver, prostate, breasts, ovaries, and colon [viii]. That’s pretty amazing for such a small berry. It’s also thought that they may even help to prevent gum disease and benefit your oral health overall.
Of course, not every berry has to have the word in its name! Grapes are a great source of many health benefits – but that does not mean that you should run out and buy a few bottles of wine. You would be best off eating the fruit itself in order to get the full benefit of the nutritional boosts it can provide.
One thing that it is important to note about nearly all berries is their ability to help you lose weight and stay fit. This is, quite simply, because they have a low calorie value and are all natural. If you choose to snack on berries instead of on chocolate or fast food, you are definitely going to see results fast.
Just like some of the berries I’ve already mentioned, grapes contain fiber and potassium, which means that you’re likely to see a lower risk of high blood pressure and also of cardiovascular disease. You can also receive the other potassium-related benefits such as healthy bones, and a reduced risk of stroke.
So, these are four berries that will give you huge health benefits – but you can be sure that a lot of other berries fall into this category too, as well as other fruit in general. It’s advisable to make sure that you eat fresh fruits on a regular basis – your body will thank you, both now and as you get older. In fact, it may just help you to live longer! What with so many delicious berries out there, there’s really no excuse not to.
[i] Deppe, Michele. “Succulent Strawberries.” Today’s Dietitian Health & Nutrition Center. Copyright © 2013 Great Valley Publishing Co., Inc. 3801 Schuylkill Rd, Spring City, PA 19475. Accessed January 15th, 2014.
[ii] Schaeffer, Juliann. “Latest Scoop on Berries – Harvard Study Shows Heart Health Benefits for Young Women.” Today’s Dietitian Vol. 15 No. 6 P. 16. Accessed January 15th, 2014.
[iii] Antinoro RD, JD, LDN, Linda. “Increasing Dietary Potassium – Find Out Why Most People Need to Consume More of This Mineral.” Today’s Dietitian Vol. 14 No. 12 P. 50. Accessed January 2, 2014.
[iv] “Low Potassium Linked to High Blood Pressure.” American Society of Nephrology. Release date November 2008. Accessed January 2, 2014.
[v] Lower blood pressure naturally, Robb, Matthew, Today’s Dietitian, accessed 15 December 2014.
[vi] Anticancer vitamins and minerals, Machowsky, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, Jason, Nutrition 411, reviewed February 2014, accessed 15 December 2014.
[vii] Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and cardiovascular disease risk factors”. McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachussetts 02111, USA. Nutr Rev. 2007 Nov. Accessed November 20th 2013.
[viii] “Cranberry”. Memorial Sloan Kettering University. Oct 25th 2012. Accessed November 20th 2013.