Berries are some of the most delicious and nutritious fruits. It has been repeatedly shown that they provide a number of impressive health benefits, due to the presence of bioactive compounds including phenolic compounds (phenolic acids, flavonoids such as anthocyanins and flavonols, and tannins) and ascorbic acid.
Here are 5 amazing reasons to eat more of them!
A source of compounds with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Antioxidants are substances that help keep the action of free radicals in the body under control. Free radicals are by-products of our normal aerobic metabolism. It is essential to have a small amount of them in the body, as they allow the organism to defend itself against various bacteria and viruses. However, excessive production of free radicals is dangerous and can eventually lead to health harm, as it causes oxidative stress and triggers inflammation. Increased production of free radicals may occur due to stress, increased steroid production, prolonged exposure to the UV radiation, excessive consumption of calories or alcohol, prolonged immune activity of the organism, or exposure to toxic substances, food preservatives or environmental factors (e.g. cigarette smoke or pollutants that contaminate the atmosphere).
Inflammation is a natural process that occurs when the body defends itself against an infection or injury. However, our modern way of life often leads to excessive, prolonged inflammation due to increased stress, insufficient physical activity and unhealthy eating habits. Berries are a good source of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid and resveratrol. Due to the ability of these substances to protect the body's cells from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, they aid in minimizing the risk of various diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, Alzheimer's disease and various types of cancers.
Better glycaemic control and enhanced insulin sensitivity
Studies show that berries may protect cells from high blood sugar levels and contribute to increased insulin sensitivity in both healthy and insulin resistant individuals. A study that examined a sample of healthy women has shown that the consumption of wheat or rye breads along with 150 grams of strawberries or mixed berries led to better glycaemic control and lowered the levels of insulin in the blood, compared to consumption of wheat or rye breads alone. In a six-week study, obese, non-diabetic individuals with insulin resistance that consumed a blueberry smoothie containing bioactives from whole blueberries twice daily showed greater improvement in insulin sensitivity, compared to the group of obese, non-diabetic people who consumed smoothies that did not contain blueberries.
Low calorie source of micro-nutrients and soluble fibre
Although berries are low in calories, they are highly nutritious. Apart from being rich in antioxidants, berries contain many vitamins and minerals including manganese, copper, folic acid and vitamin K. Berries, and especially strawberries are also high in vitamin C. In fact, a cup of strawberries (approximately 150gr) provides an impressive 149% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C. A cup of berries provides approximately 49 to 84 calories depending on the type of berry.
Berries are also a very good source of fibre, and especially soluble fibre. Clinical studies have shown that consumption of soluble fibre can lower cholesterol for cardiovascular health, improve glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes, normalize stool form in both constipation and diarrhea, and improve the objective clinical measures of metabolic syndrome (glycaemic control, blood lipid profile, body mass index/weight loss, and blood pressure). Fiber is also known for its ability to slow digestion and absorption of food through the digestive system, leading to reduced hunger and an increased feeling of satiety.
In a number of clinical trials berries were shown to reduce wrinkles on the skin. This makes perfect sense, since berries are packed with antioxidants including ellagic acid, which help mask the action of free radicals that cause skin damage and contribute to aging. Studies suggest that ellagic acid can help protect the skin by inhibiting the production of enzymes that degrade collagen in sun-damaged skin. Collagen is a structural protein of the skin that allows it to stretch and remain stable. When collagen is damaged, the skin can lose its elasticity and develop wrinkles.
Healthy, tasty meals for all!
Berries can be eaten by almost everyone as part of a healthy diet. The only people who should avoid berries are those who follow a diet low in fibre to manage certain digestive disorders including IBS/IBD, and people who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are more common. Berries are ideal ingredients for main meals, snacks, smoothies or desserts. Most berries naturally have a sweet taste and do not require additional sweeteners. When not in season, frozen berries can be used. For breakfast or as a snack, try berries with coconut or soy yogurt, muesli, oats or a handful of nuts of your choice, and for extra sweet taste add one tablespoon of agave or maple syrup. Alternatively, you can try our blueberry-peanut butter protein smoothie here!
Take home message
Berries have incredible taste, are a low-calorie source of nutrients and provide multiple health benefits due to the numerous bio-active compounds found in them. By including them in your diet on a daily basis, you can improve your overall health in a very pleasant way!