Why You Should Incorporate Berries Into Your Diet

Foods containing nutraceutical components are gaining popularity due to their health benefits. Berries are delicious fruits rich in nutrients, antioxidant vitamins, and compounds. They may help improve your health by decreasing cell damage, infection, and inflammation. Read on to learn about berries' health benefits and how to incorporate them into your diet.

Key takeaways:
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    Berries are rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds (phytochemicals).
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    Adding berries to your diet may improve your health because they have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.
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    Nutrient composition changes slightly among berries, but there is no ultimate healthiest berry. It is best to add different fruits and berries to your diet.

Health benefits of berries

Berries have many nutritive and non-nutritive compounds (showing antioxidant effects) that may improve your health. Health benefits of berries include:

Antioxidant effects

Free radicals are formed as a result of metabolism and environmental factors such as exposure to smoking, air pollution, and sunlight. Exposure to free radicals may cause oxidative stress, which can result in cell damage.

Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that capture and eliminate free radicals. Therefore, they may help prevent or delay cell damage.

Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation rises when the body's immune response reacts to an irritant, which can be pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and worms that cause diseases), injuries, chemicals, or radiation.

Inflammation is a defense mechanism, but chronic inflammation can cause diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory foods may help to decrease inflammation, thus promoting your health. Dark-colored berries (red to blue) contain strong antioxidants called anthocyanins showing anti-inflammatory effects.

Antimicrobial effects

Cranberries, cloudberries, strawberries, and red raspberries have shown antimicrobial effects against human pathogens. They contain compounds called ellagitannins that may prevent microbial colonization and infection by restraining the adherence of microbes to the tissue.

Cranberries have been shown to inhibit adherence to Escherichia coli (E. coli), the most common cause of urinary tract infections. If bacteria cannot adhere to tissue, they can't cause infection.

Neuroprotective effects

Oxidative stress is thought to contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Some studies showed the neuroprotective effects of polyphenol-rich plants, including berries.

Rats showed increased performance in balance, coordination, and cognitive functions when they were fed a 2% blueberries-supplemented diet. Also, cranberries have been shown to improve neural functions in aged rats.

Anticancer effects

Free radicals can cause damage to the DNA and RNA (genetic material) of the cells. Accumulation of damage may contribute to tumor formation. Berries contain phenolic compounds (ex: anthocyanins, gallic and ellagic acid), which have shown anticancer properties mostly in cell culture and animal studies.

Heart health improvements

Cardiovascular diseases are the top causes of death worldwide. Blood lipid profiles, blood pressure, and vascular health are just a few of the many indicators of heart health. These indicators can be affected by an unhealthy or inadequate diet.

Healthy blood pressure and cholesterol can prevent heart diseases. Berries have high phenolic compounds, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

Blood glucose improvements

Berries have lower sugar compared to most foods. Besides, phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and proanthocyanins have been shown to improve diabetes by suppressing the increase in blood glucose levels.

It is thought that berries, especially raspberries, inhibit the activity of α-amylase and α-glucosidase, which are digestive enzymes. When the enzyme's activity is inhibited, glucose absorption decreases.

There are a variety of berries with different colors, tastes, and nutrients. There are many berries for you to choose from. Let's look at the nutrient composition of the most popular berries.

BerryNutrients and antioxidant compounds
BlackcurrantVitamin A, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and potassium
BilberryVitamin C, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, and manganese
Blueberry Vitamin A, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, selenium, zinc, iron, and manganese
BlackberryVitamin C, manganese, and folate
CranberryVitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and manganese
ElderberryVitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium, and iron
RaspberryVitamins B and C
StrawberryVitamin C, potassium, and folate

Each berry type contains more than just nutrients mentioned above. The table represents the nutrients that the berry contains the most.

Is there a "best" berry?

No. Berries are nutritious fruits that may improve your health. Add them to your diet to improve your diet's nutrient variety. Berries are commonly rich in polyphenols, besides antioxidant vitamins and minerals. They contain less sugar compared to most fruits. Different berries give you slightly different nutrients. Overall they are all healthy, and you should add them to your diet.

How to incorporate berries into your diet

Berries are very convenient to eat. You can eat berries fresh, dried, frozen, canned, in the form of jams, and so on. You can start with commonly consumed berries: blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, and strawberry.

If you want to eat fresh, here is the season of some berries:

StrawberriesMay to early July
BlueberriesJune to August
BlackberriesAugust and early September
CranberriesAutumn

It is healthy to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily. If you need to know how much berry is 1 portion of berries, let's look at the table.

Berries1 portion
Blackberries1 handful (9 to 10)
Blueberries2 handfuls (4 heaped tablespoons)
Raspberries20
Strawberries7
Cranberries (dried)1 heaped tablespoon

If you’ve decided to eat more berries. Here are six ways to add berries to your meals:

  • Yogurt. Add berries to your yogurt to increase your fiber intake.
  • Oatmeal. Top your oatmeal's with colorful berries.
  • Smoothies. Make berry smoothies packed with a variety of berries.
  • Salads. Put berries in your salad dressing — sounds different but give it a try for a delicious meal.
  • Snacks. Nuts and dried berries can make great snacks.
  • Berry drinks. Consider making a hot berry drink.

Berries are low-sugar and high-antioxidant fruits containing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Adding berries to your ‘5 A Day’ can improve your health because berries can eliminate free radicals, prevent infection and decrease inflammation. They may also improve metabolic and heart health. There are lots of different berries. Find the ones you love and incorporate them into your diet to improve your nutrition.

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