The news – that most people (still) need to hear – is that recent advancements in nutritional science have clearly shown that the food we consume can act as a powerful disease fighting tool. Scientists unanimously agree that the best protection one can get against diseases is by consuming a diverse range of fruits and vegetables.
Berries, in particular, have been a topic of interest due to their anti-aging, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Anthocyanin – the key to berry power
Berries are a nutrient-powerhouse to an array of vitamins including vitamins A, C, E and folic acid; minerals selenium, magnesium, calcium and antioxidant polyphenols and anthocyanins. The unique disease-fighting ability of the berries is due to the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin. This particular type of antioxidant is dominant in the berry family, hence the superior health potency.
Anthocyanins are basically the blue / purple pigments that impart a bright color to the berries. Many studies have directly linked anthocyanins to powerful health benefits including decreased oxidative stress, cancer prevention, decreased inflammation during allergies, diabetes prevention, blood pressure reduction, lower cholesterol and a stronger heart. Examples of anthocyanin rich berries include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries, tart cherries, cranberries and elderberries – to name a few. Other non-berry foods that are also good sources of anthocyanins include organic kale, brussel sprouts, blue corn, alfalfa sprouts and bell peppers.
Top 5 berries and their specific health properties
Cranberries: They are widely used in treating urinary tract infections. Again, the anthocyanin compounds give this fruit its powerful health benefits.
Tart cherries: Studies showed that anthocyanins and cyanidin compounds in cherries inhibited the inflammatory pathways and hence were beneficial in treating arthritis and gout.
Blueberries: Blueberries are among the most researched berries for their high antioxidant capacity. It is particularly significant in protecting against age-related brain deterioration and maintaining nerve health.
Blackberries: Rich in anthocyanin compounds namely cyanidin-3-O-beta-D-glucoside. Also called as C3G, this is one of the potent antioxidant with high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) values. Blackberries are recommended for promoting heart and blood vessel health.
Strawberries: They are rich anthocyanin compounds like cyanidins, perlargonidins, procyanidins, and host of other antioxidant chemicals. They are touted for their anti-cancer effects.
The more colorful your plate, the greater the disease protection
A growing body of evidence indicate that diverse and vibrant hues offer the best protection against numerous degenerative conditions like heart problems, diabetes, stroke, dementia, cancer, hypertension plus much more. This is simply because the natural pigments present in the berries impart the color and are also responsible for the health benefits.
The pigments differ in their therapeutic effects ranging from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant to anti-aging effects. Generally speaking, researchers suggest that more deeply colored a fruit or vegetable are higher in disease-protecting ability.
Are we consuming enough of these disease fighting foods?
The answer for this question can be obtained by scanning our plates for colors. If your plate does not boast of rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables, you are probably not consuming enough of these powerful disease preventing agents. If you find this difficult to do – then try having fruit as a snack – during the day.
Obviously, we are not suggesting that anyone become a ‘fruitarian’ – although, some people (in the short term) can benefit greatly from that way of eating. We are suggesting that the regular consumption of fresh, organic berries is a delicious way to help boost your immune system and stay healthy.
What’s your favorite fruit? (post your comments below)
Seeram NP. Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):630-5
Lala G, Malik M, Zhao C, et al. Anthocyanin-rich extracts inhibit multiple biomarkers of colon cancer in rats. Nutr Cancer. 2006;54(1):84-93.
Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Dec 13;54(25):9329-39.