These nutrition-packed fibre bombs don’t just taste great drizzled with cream. Berries are ripe with health benefits, some of which may just surprise you…
Besides beaches and barbecues, one of summer's greatest joys has to be the abundance of berries on offer. But not only are they juicy and refreshing, berries also offer a whole cocktail of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
But did you know that strawberries could improve your smile? Or that freezing blueberries makes them even more nutritious? Join us as we delve a bit deeper into the lesser-known health benefits of some of our favourite fruity treats. And the truth may be even sweeter than you think…
1. Berries could cure your headache
Next time you feel a pounding behind the eyes, you might want to consider snacking on some berries alongside your usual pain management. Berries are naturally high in salicylates, the active ingredient in aspirin. And because this acid is part of the fruit’s defence system against diseases, insects and bacteria, organic berries have nearly six times more salicylic acid than the pesticide-laden kind.
2. Berries may help your hayfever
Seasonal allergies getting right up your nose? Reach for a raspberry - or any berry you like, for that matter. All berries contain a flavonoid antioxidant called quercetin, which happens to have antihistamine properties. The best berry on the block when it comes to quercetin is the delicious-sounding bog whortleberry with 158 mg of quercetin per kilogram. But if your local grocer happens to be all out of bog whortleberry, cranberries also score highly, with 121 mg quercetin per kilogram.
3. Freezing blueberries makes them even more nutritious
All berries are high in antioxidants, substances which can reverse the oxidation associated with ageing, inflammation and the development of conditions like heart disease and arthritis. But blueberries are particularly rich in a type of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, which are found in high amounts in their skins and responsible for that deep, blue colour.
In a study carried out by South Dakota State University, freezing berries makes these antioxidants even more bioavailable to the human body. Ice crystals formed during freezing disrupts the structure of the berry’s skin cells, which makes it easier for our bodies to access the anthocyanins within.
4. Strawberries may make your teeth look brighter
Want a whiter smile without harsh chemicals? Eat more strawberries. The rich, red berries have a high malic acid concentration, which works as a natural astringent to help remove tooth surface discoloration.
But that’s not the only thing strawberries can do for your oral health. Malic acid can also increase saliva production in people suffering with dry mouth (or xerostomia, to give it its medical term), something which helps guard against tooth decay.
5. Berries may boost your brain
Berries are great for your body, but what about your grey matter? There’s now a body of evidence that confirms the supportive role compounds found in berries play in the brain. Eating berries has been found to prevent age-related neurodegeneration and resulting changes in cognitive and motor function, keeping you sharp and focused as you age.
6. Berries protects against the harmful effects of alcohol
Pop that strawberry into your Prosecco (but of course, remember to enjoy alcohol in moderation!) because scientists believe eating berries may ward off stomach problems caused by long-term drinking or excessive use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Researchers at Marche Polytechnic University in Italy fed strawberry extract to rats for 10 days. When they tried to give the rats stomach lesions using ethanol, the strawberry extract was found to ward off the onset of ulcers.
It’s all down to our old friends the anthocyanins. These appear to activate antioxidant enzymes in the stomach lining that protect against the ulcer-inducing oxidant damage from ethanol.
7. Berries may help promote a healthy weight
Flavour-packed, low-calorie and nutrient-dense, berries are ideal when you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight. They’re also packed with pectin, a soluble fibre that helps you feel full.
But that’s not all. While the anti-inflammatory properties in berries have long been implicated in the prevention of obesity-related inflammation, research is now suggesting they might have a role to play in preventing obesity itself, either by interfering with the way the body digests or metabolises fats.
8. Berries are great for heart health
Packed with flavonoids, berries are a famously heart-healthy fruit. But they’re also significant dietary sources of folate (folic acid), a water soluble B vitamin which is an essential micronutrient, important in health promotion and disease prevention. In fact strawberries are one of the richest natural sources of folate.
Research has shown that folate may play a role in reducing risk of both heart disease and cancer through a range of mechanisms including lowering homocysteine levels, catalysing nitric oxide formation and maintaining DNA stability.
9. Berries are great for your skin
Berries are so rich in vitamin C,that just a handful can provide you with your recommended daily allowance. And while vitamin C has a number of health benefits, it also acts as a cofactor in some of the bodily reactions which help it produce collagen, the protein that gives skin its suppleness.
If you enjoyed this post, you may like to read The Life-Changing Magic of Mushrooms.
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14. Potential Health Benefits of Berries Julie Beattie1 , Alan Crozier2 and Garry G. Duthie3
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