Berries are technically fleshy fruits that are produced from one ovary. It is a simple fruit that is pulpy and has an edible pericarp. There are many different kinds of berries that are available across the world. The types available in a region vary based on the climate of the location.
While each of the different berries has their own unique and specific characteristics, almost all of them have some great health benefits. Consuming berries can help you maintain good health. Some of these wonder berries have even been known to prevent specific ailments that you may be susceptible to.
What Makes Berries Healthy?
The health benefits of berries arise from the large amounts of antioxidants that they include. Some of these include anthocyanins, quercetin and vitamin C. But this is not the only nutrient they contain.
Here is what you get when you consume berries:
- Anthocyanins – This is a color pigment that is also an antioxidant. The blue, red or purple color indicates that it has high levels of antioxidant properties. These specific colored berries can be associated with urinary tract health, better memory and easy aging. Antioxidants are also helpful in fighting free radicals that cause cancer.
- Catechins – Catechins are basically flavonols that help antioxidants fight free radicals. In a manner of speaking they are the defense force that provides support to the fighting squad.
- Fiber – Almost all berries have good levels of fiber, something that we all know is great for GI tract health, cholesterol control and therefore heart health too.
- Ellagic Acid – This compound has been known to be anti-carcinogenic. It is also known to be antiviral and antibacterial. Some even claim that it can help reverse tumors.
- Gallic acid – Another antioxidant, gallic acid is known to limit the growth of infected cancer cells, especially in the case of prostate cancer.
- Quercetin – Another form of antioxidant that helps fight cancer and heart diseases, it is abundantly found in many berries.
- Rutin – This is a bioflavonoid that prevents cell proliferation and therefore is known to be great for cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Salicylic acid – Found to a large extent in cranberries, salicylic acid is known to have properties similar to aspirin. In small doses every day, it can prevent atherosclerosis and clogging of blood vessels.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C, a soluble vitamin, is known to act as a powerful antioxidant, preventing the process of oxidation as a fast rate.
Top Health Benefits of Berries
If you enjoy the taste of berries, you will love to read the many health benefits that can be associated with berries in general.
- Stay mentally alert – Research published in Annals of Neurology showed berry intake leads to a slower decline in mental health and memory. The research was conducted among 16,010 women above the age of 70. Those who consumed berries had more than 2 years of better cognitive health than those that did not. This property is associated with the presence of anthocyanidins in berries.
- Diabetes management – Despite being slightly sweet, berries are a great food for diabetic people due to the high levels of fiber that they contain. The fiber helps in regulating the amount of sugar that is released in the blood, thereby maintaining proper blood sugar levels.
- Heart health – A study in PLoS Medicine has indicated that berries may be able to change the risk of heart disease carried by the 9p21 gene. This study was conducted among 27,000 people.
- Prevent Parkinson’s – Consuming flavonoids reduces the risk of Parkinson’s by 40% in men. Berries contain a significantly large amount of flavonoids and therefore can prevent Parkinson’s.
- Weight loss and management – High fiber content in berries provides a feeling of satiety and therefore helps in better diet management.
- Cancer – With the high amounts of different kinds of antioxidants, berries are a number-one superfood to help fight cancer-causing free radicals. Some antioxidants in berries have known to reverse tumors and prevent multiplication of cancer cells. These superfoods are a great supplement to any other kind of cancer treatment too.
- Alzheimer’s – Compounds called polyphenolics found in berries are considered to be great in slowing down the process of aging, especially the aspects related to mental health. They help in preventing the buildup of toxins and prevent Alzheimer’s.
The Super Berries
- Description – The blueberry is often called the superstar among all berries. It is a berry that can be found in mild flavors to tangy ones too. Some are the size of a pea and others can be as large as a marble. Colors range from blue to maroon and black. They are extremely low in calories and a cup contains less than 85 calories. The berries grow in clusters and are in season between May and October.
- Native to – Blueberries are native to North America. The lowbush variety is also found in Europe and the Mediterranean area. About 30% of the world’s produce is grown in the US and Canada.
- Specific health benefits – Blueberries have a large number of antioxidants and therefore are associated with complete antioxidant support for the body. They improve the level of fat in the blood, reduce total cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides and increase the level of good cholesterol HDL. The berries also help in nerve cell protection and retina protection from damage caused by oxidation. University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center conducted a research that showed blueberries reduce belly fat and increase metabolic rate.
- Nutrients – Blueberries contain anthocyanins like malvidins, pelargonidins, delphinidins and peonidins. The Hydroxycinnamic acids they contain include coumaric acids, caffeic acid and ferulic acid and the Hydroxybenzoic acids are gallic acid and procatchuic acid. Kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin are the flavanols present in blueberries and it also contains pterostilbene and resveratrol too.
- Tips in buying, preserving and cooking – Blueberries should be washed carefully since they are fragile. They should be patted dry and not rubbed. Organic berries can be used without washing. High temperatures remove and damage the various nutrients found in the berry and these are best enjoyed fresh and raw. You can add blueberries to a shake. Other options include blueberries and yogurt, blueberry parfait or trifle.
- Description – Cranberries are glossy on the exterior and have a tarty flavor. Cranberries are also called ‘bounceberries’ since ripe ones are checked by bouncing them.
- Native to – Cranberries are native to Europe, North America and Northern Asia.
- Specific health benefits – Health benefits of cranberry come from large amounts of vitamin C and varied phytochemicals. These berries have high anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Cranberries have always been associated with protection against urinary tract infection. The anti-inflammatory properties help in maintaining good digestive health. Consuming cranberry juice in large quantities is known to help in removing kidney stones.
- Nutrients – Cranberries contain phenolic acids like vanillic acid, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid and ferulic acid. They also have anthocyanins like cyanidins, malvidins and peonidins and flavonoids like quercetin, myricetin and kaempferol. This berry also contains ursolic acid.
- Tips in buying, preserving and cooking – Firmness and bounce are the two main aspects to check while buying cranberries. The ones with a deeper color are healthier since they contain more anthocyanin. You can store these berries for about 20 days in a refrigerator. Remove those that are discolored, leathery, sticky or tough when you use them. In most cranberry recipes, you do not need to cook them. They are a great option in salads to add tartness.
- Description – Raspberries belong to the family of fruits that include apples and apricots. They are considered to be the most popular berries after strawberries and blueberries. Raspberries are divided into red raspberries, black raspberries and purple raspberries. Black raspberries are also called thimbleberry, scotch cap and black cap.
- Native to – Red raspberry is native to Europe.
- Specific health benefits – Raspberries have been associated with many studies that show the positive effects of raspberry consumption on blood sugar management. The raspberry ketone found in these berries is known to increase metabolism and therefore help in weight reduction and obesity management.
- Nutrients – Like blueberries, raspberries also contain different kinds of anthocyanins (cyanidins, pelargonidins, delphinidins and malvidins), flavonols (quercetin, kaempferol), flavanols (catechins, epicatechins), tilirosides, tannins (ellagitannins, gallotannins, proanthocyanidins) and many hydroxybenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids.
- Tips in buying, preserving and cooking – Wash the raspberries just before serving and do not leave them soaked in room temperature for too long. Those that seem too soft should just be used to make puree. You can use raspberries in porridge, yogurt or make a sauce to go with waffles or pancakes.
- Description – Strawberries are the most popular berries due to the lovely taste that they have. They are now available all through the year while the actual season was between April and June. With more than 600 different varieties, the taste also varies from sweet and fragrant to tangy and sour.
- Native to – Strawberries are native to the United States among other countries. The largest produce comes from California.
- Specific health benefits – A few servings of strawberries can help decrease blood sugar elevations among the diabetic. Ellagitannin is the polyphenol responsible for this amazing effect. High levels of antioxidants help in keeping cancer at bay. These berries are also associated with better bowel health like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Nutrients – Anthocyanins, flavonols, hydroxy-benzoic acids, hydroxy-cinnamic acids, tannins and stilbenes in a wide variety are some of the nutrients one finds in strawberries.
- Tips in buying, preserving and cooking – Strawberries are more perishable than other berries. They last for only a couple of days at their best. Pick those that are bright in color and firm. You can freeze strawberries and use them for a year. However, they are available through the year now and therefore best bought fresh. They make good accompaniments with green salad, yogurt and as shakes.
Other Great Berries
The list of health berries is large. Here are some others that you may also want to include in your list of things to buy at the grocery.
- Acai berries – Round and purple, this berry contains iron, calcium and fiber in large quantities.
- Blackberries – These berries are known to have the highest level of antioxidants among all berries available in the United States. They also have high dietary fiber, vitamin C and K and folic acid.
- Noni berries – A berry that has become popular of late due to its usefulness during menstrual cramps, bowel issues, diabetes and urinary tract infections.
- Goji berries – These berries are also known as Chinese wolfberries and native to the Himalayas Range. They boost immunity and prolong life. They are high in vitamin C, carotene, amino acids and the B vitamins.
- Maqui berries – Native to Southern Chile, this is a tart berry that has an abundance of iron, anthocyanins and polyphenols. It is used in many dietary supplements.
- Chokeberry – More commonly known as aronia, the chokeberry is naïve to Eastern America and Eastern Europe too. It is a more recent find in the country for its health benefits. These berries have 5 to 10 times more anthocyanins than cranberry.
- Boysenberries – Not very common in the United States, these berries are high in folate, fiber and vitamin E. Great for your hair and skin and nerve health.
- Marion berries – Known to prevent cancer, heart diseases and age-related degeneration, marion berries are also great for a healthy gut.
- Bayberries – Originally from China, bayberries are good for heart health and can prevent degenerative diseases. It helps in digestion and removes toxins from the human body too.
- Youngberries – Youngberries are considered to be great for the eye. They help in proper digestion and promote nerve health. They are also rich in iron.
- Gooseberries – Gooseberries are rich in vitamin C and are known to enhance hair growth and strength. These have been used in hair tonics in Ayurveda for centuries. The Indian gooseberry or the amla is recommended for diabetics since it stimulates the islets of Langerhans that produce insulin. It is also good for the heart, improves appetite and has anti-aging properties too.
- Hackberries – A native of south eastern Asia, hackberries are known to be great for diarrhea, dysentery, colic, menstrual cramps and other gastrointestinal tract ailments.
- Barberry – Known by other names such as berbery, mahonia, holy thorn and Pepperidge, this berry is considered to be native to Europe. Flowers of this plant are used to treat rheumatism. It has liver cleansing properties, helps contain diarrhea and protects against various bacterial infections too.
- Juniper berries – With a nice blue and purple hue, juniper berries improve digestion and aid in better kidney health.
- Cloudberries – Possible health benefits of this orange berry include better oral health, reduced aging, better lung health and higher immunity levels.
- Bearberry – Used in traditional Europe as a treatment for bladder infection, bearberry can be used to make a concoction like tea.