Berries are stuffed with protective chemicals that work to keep your immune system strong and the whole structure of your body healthy. Many of these phytonutrients are increasingly being linked to protection from cancer. As high-fibre, low-GI food, berries also help keep weight under control and blood sugar levels stable. And they taste fantastic!
Packed with a broad spread of nutrients, raspberries are full of fibre, vitamins, manganese and cell-friendly phytochemicals. The anti-inflammatory properties of ellagic acid make raspberries helpful for obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and possibly Crohn’s disease.
In animal studies, raspberry ketone (rheosmin) seems to improve metabolism of fats and prevent some absorption of dietary fat. Other phytochemicals in raspberries are believed to induce cell suicide in some tumours as well as helping to keep non-cancerous cells healthy.
Buy organic raspberries for lower pesticide residues and higher levels of phytonutrients. And make sure they are fully ripe – but not over ripe – for best health benefits.
Use raspberries fresh in summer and autumn, and frozen as year-round additions to smoothies, bakes, porridge and yogurt.
Strawberries are in the top three fruits for vitamin C and the fresher you eat them, the more you’ll benefit as nutrient value starts declining from the moment they are picked. Just seven strawberries – around 80g – provide the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, making them a better daily bet than more unusual fruits such as rose hips or guavas which contain a higher percentage of vitamin C gram for gram.
One serving of strawberries also provides more than two grams of fibre – you need at least 18g a day – and they are a good source of manganese, folic acid and iodine.
Like many berries, strawberries are thought to lower cognitive decline so eating them will help you hold on to your brain function. They also support heart health, by lowering cholesterol levels and helping to reduce high blood pressure, and appear to be even more cardioprotective when eaten in combination with other berries.
Strawberries are one of the most heavily sprayed crops so it’s worth buying organic.
Blueberries are ultra-versatile phytonutrient superstars, making them powerful for fighting disease. The fruit gets its deep colour from a chemical called anthocyanin, which also appears to protect the neurons in the brain.
A good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, fibre and copper, blueberries are a fantastic choice as one of your seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
As with other berries, buy organic if you can as the antioxidant activity will be higher. Antioxidants work to counter free radicals, produced by oxidation reactions in the body, which can be damaging to cells.
Try adding blueberries to your breakfast cereal, including them in a packed lunch, or mixing with natural yoghurt for a delicious dessert.
Blackberries are one of the most widely available and nutrient-dense fruits on the planet. They too are packed with phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, ellagic acid and quercetin, so have anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
As a good source of the B vitamin folate, blackberries are good for cell growth and the nervous system. Folate is especially important during early pregnancy as it helps reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida.
Rich in soluble and insoluble fibre – and your body needs both – just 100g of blackberries provide 14% of the recommended daily minimum. Fresh blackberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C.
Look out for blackberries in hedgerows from July to October. Delicious in pies, crumbles, fools and jams, they also make the ideal partner for cooking apples and are the perfect foil for pork or gamey meat such as venison and duck.
Guest Author: Anna Atkins
Italian in London, passionate about healthy tasty food, founder of the great-food-made-easy website Lemon Squeezy.