Talk about a sweet way to get some extraordinary health benefits—berries!
Topping off the list is berries’ ability to help us stay mentally sharp. Research published in the Annals of Neurology found that women who eat two servings of strawberries or one serving of blueberries per week experienced less mental decline than their peers who didn’t eat berries. The study’s author, Elizabeth Devore, Sc. D., an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, attributes the positive effects to a class of compounds called anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid.
Flavonoids, by the way, are powerful antioxidant compounds found primarily in plants. As you know, antioxidants have the uncanny power to take destructive free radicals and convert them to harmless waste products that the body can eliminate before any damage is done to the body. In short, antioxidants act as scavengers to keep the body’s cells, tissues and overall health intact. Devore says, “These compounds, found almost exclusively in berries, are known to cross the blood-brain barrier and locate in learning and memory centers in the brain."
Then there’s the cardiovascular factor. Berries and other raw fruits and veggies may reduce the chances of having heart disease at the genetic level. A study published in PLoS Medicine pointed out that loading up on colorful fruits—including berries—and veggies appears to positively and healthily modify the genetic risk carried in the 9p21 gene, which is known to be related to heart disease.
Likewise, a study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and published in Circulation found that women between the ages of 25 and 42 who ate three or more servings of blueberries or strawberries per week decreased their heart attack risk by one-third—presently and later in life—compared to women who ate those berries once a month or less. What’s more is that even among women who had a diet high in fruits and veggies, those who ate the most strawberries and blueberries were still less likely to have a heart attack.
Now for blood pressure. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that eating just one cup of strawberries or blueberries each week can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The study noted that men and women who ate the most of these berries had an 8 percent reduction in their risk for developing high blood pressure compared to those who ate the least amount of the berries. The flavonoids—anthocyanins— in strawberries and blueberries help to fight inflammation and to open blood vessels, which allows for smoother blood flow and lower risk for high blood pressure.
Let’s not forget about berries and weight control. Berries contain fiber and liquid content, which give a sense of fullness. Feeling full—or satiated—is, of course, an important part of managing weight. So, fill up on those berries!
Additional health benefits of berries include:
Fighting cancer: Most anti-cancer diets generally include eating plenty of raw fruits and veggies. However, research in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis suggests that flavonoids and other compounds in berries help reduce colon cancer risk.
Staving off Parkinson’s: People who eat at least two servings of berries per week have a 25 percent decreased chance of developing Parkinson’s disease than their peers, according to the journal Neurology. Additionally, research indicated that men with the highest intake of flavonoids, such as those found in berries, reduced their risk by a whopping 40 percent.
Avoiding Alzheimer’s: Berries’ antioxidants might fight against the damaging cognitive decline effects of Alzheimer’s, according to data from the American Chemical Society. They say berries offer compounds known as polyphenols, which may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by cleaning up damaging toxin buildup in the brain.
Battling urinary tract infections (UTIs): Cranberries are best known when it comes to urinary tract health, but blueberries have shown promise as well. So, mix and match your berries!
“Berry” sweet health benefits of berries, right?