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11 Reasons Why Berries Are Among the Healthiest Foods on Earth

Health + Wellness
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By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.


They're delicious, nutritious, and provide a number of impressive health benefits.

Here are 11 good reasons to include berries in your diet.

1. Loaded With Antioxidants

Berries contain antioxidants, which help keep free radicals under control.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are beneficial in small amounts but can damage your cells when their numbers get too high, causing oxidative stress (1).

Berries are a great source of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol. In addition to protecting your cells, these plant compounds may reduce disease risk (2, 3).

One study showed that blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates (4).

In fact, several studies have confirmed that the antioxidants in berries may help reduce oxidative stress (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

One study in healthy men found that consuming a single, 10-ounce (300-gram) portion of blueberries helped protect their DNA against free radical damage (8).

In another study in healthy people, eating 17 ounces (500 grams) of strawberry pulp every day for 30 days decreased a pro-oxidant marker by 38% (9).

Summary

Berries are high in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which may protect your cells from free radical damage.

2. May Help Improve Blood Sugar and Insulin Response

Berries may improve your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Test-tube and human studies suggest that they may protect your cells from high blood sugar levels, help increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar and insulin response to high-carb meals (10, 11, 12, 13).

Importantly, these effects appear to occur in both healthy people and those with insulin resistance.

In one study in healthy women, eating 5 ounces (150 grams) of puréed strawberries or mixed berries with bread led to a 24–26% reduction in insulin levels, compared to consuming the bread alone (13).

Moreover, in a six-week study, obese people with insulin resistance who drank a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than those who consumed berry-free smoothies (14).

Summary

Berries may improve blood sugar and insulin response when consumed with high-carb foods or included in smoothies.

3. High in Fiber

Berries are a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber. Studies show that consuming soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract, leading to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness.

This may decrease your calorie intake and make weight management easier (15, 16).

What's more, fiber helps reduce the number of calories you absorb from mixed meals. One study found that doubling your fiber intake could make you absorb up to 130 fewer calories per day (17).

In addition, the high fiber content of berries means that they're low in digestible or net carbs, which are calculated by subtracting fiber from total carbs.

Here are the carb and fiber counts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of berries (18, 19, 20, 21):

  • Raspberries: 11.9 grams of carbs, 6.5 of which are fiber
  • Blackberries: 10.2 grams of carbs, 5.3 of which are fiber
  • Strawberries: 7.7 grams of carbs, 2.0 of which are fiber
  • Blueberries: 14.5 grams of carbs, 2.4 of which are fiber

Note that a typical serving size for berries is 1 cup, which converts to about 4.4–5.3 ounces (125–150 grams) depending on the type.

Because of their low net carb content, berries are a low-carb-friendly food.

Summary

Berries contain fiber, which may increase feelings of fullness, as well as reduce appetite and the number of calories your body absorbs from mixed meals.

4. Provide Many Nutrients

Berries are low in calories and extremely nutritious. In addition to being high in antioxidants, they also contain several vitamins and minerals.

Berries, especially strawberries, are high in vitamin C. In fact, 1 cup (150 grams) of strawberries provides a whopping 150% of the RDI for vitamin C (20).

With the exception of vitamin C, all berries are fairly similar in terms of their vitamin and mineral content.

Below is the nutrition content of a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of blackberries (19):

  • Calories: 43
  • Vitamin C: 35% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Manganese: 32% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K1: 25% of the RDI
  • Copper: 8% of the RDI
  • Folate: 6% of the RDI

The calorie count for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of berries ranges from 32 for strawberries to 57 for blueberries, making berries some of the lowest-calorie fruits around (20, 21).

Summary

Berries are low in calories yet rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and manganese.

5. Help Fight Inflammation

Berries have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation is your body's defense against infection or injury.

However, modern lifestyles often lead to excessive, long-term inflammation due to increased stress, inadequate physical activity, and unhealthy food choices.

This type of chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (22, 23, 24).

Studies suggest that the antioxidants in berries may help lower inflammatory markers (25, 26, 27, 28).

In one study in overweight people, those drinking a strawberry beverage with a high-carb, high-fat meal noticed a more significant decrease in certain inflammatory markers than the control group (28).

Summary

Berries may help reduce inflammation and decrease your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

6. May Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

Berries are a heart-healthy food.

Black raspberries and strawberries have been shown to help lower cholesterol in people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome (29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34).

In an 8-week study, adults with metabolic syndrome who consumed a beverage made from freeze-dried strawberries daily experienced an 11% drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol (31).

What's more, berries may help prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged, which is believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease (32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37).

In a controlled study in obese people, those eating 1.5 ounces (50 grams) of freeze-dried blueberries for 8 weeks noticed a 28% reduction in their oxidized LDL levels (37).

Summary

Berries have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and help protect it from becoming oxidized, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.

7. May Be Good for Your Skin

Berries may help reduce skin wrinkling, as their antioxidants help control free radicals, one of the leading causes of skin damage that contributes to aging (38).

Though research is limited, ellagic acid appears responsible for some of the skin-related benefits of berries.

Test-tube and animal studies suggest that this antioxidant may protect skin by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen in sun-damaged skin (39, 40, 41).

Collagen is a protein that is part of your skin's structure. It allows your skin to stretch and remain firm. When collagen is damaged, your skin may sag and develop wrinkles.

In one study, applying ellagic acid to the skin of hairless mice exposed to ultraviolet light for eight weeks decreased inflammation and helped protect collagen from damage (41).

Summary

Berries contain the antioxidant ellagic acid, which may help decrease wrinkling and other signs of skin aging related to sun exposure.

8. May Help Protect Against Cancer

Several antioxidants in berries, including anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol, may reduce cancer risk (42, 43, 44).

Specifically, animal and human studies suggest that berries may protect against cancer of the esophagus, mouth, breast, and colon (45, 46, 47, 48, 49).

In a study in 20 people with colon cancer, eating 2 ounces (60 grams) of freeze-dried raspberries for 1–9 weeks improved tumor markers in some participants, though not all (49).

Another test-tube study found that all types of strawberries had strong, protective effects on liver cancer cells, regardless of whether they were high or low in antioxidants (50).

Summary

Berries have been shown to reduce markers associated with tumor growth in animals and people with several types of cancer.

9. Can Be Enjoyed on Nearly All Types of Diets

Berries can be included in many kinds of diets.

Though people on low-carb and ketogenic diets often avoid fruit, you can usually enjoy berries in moderation.

For example, a half-cup serving of blackberries (70 grams) or raspberries (60 grams) contains less than 4 grams of digestible carbs (18, 19).

Liberal amounts of berries can be incorporated into paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian, and vegan diets.

For people who want to lose weight, the few calories in berries make them ideal to include in meals, snacks, or desserts.

Organic and wild berries are now widely available in many parts of the world. When they're not in season, frozen berries can be purchased and thawed as needed.

The only people who need to avoid berries are those who require a low-fiber diet for certain digestive disorders, as well as individuals who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are most common.

Summary

Berries can be enjoyed on most diets, as they're low in calories and carbs and widely available fresh or frozen.

10. May Help Keep Your Arteries Healthy

In addition to lowering cholesterol, berries provide other benefits for heart health, including improving the function of your arteries.

The cells that line your blood vessels are called endothelial cells. They help control blood pressure, keep blood from clotting, and perform other important functions.

Excessive inflammation can damage these cells, inhibiting proper function. This is referred to as endothelial dysfunction, a major risk factor for heart disease (51).

Berries have been found to improve endothelial function in studies in healthy adults, individuals with metabolic syndrome, and people who smoke (29, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56).

In a controlled study in 44 people with metabolic syndrome, those consuming a daily blueberry smoothie showed significant improvements in endothelial function, compared to the control group (56).

Though fresh berries are considered healthiest, berries in processed form may still provide some heart-healthy benefits. Baked berry products are considered processed, whereas freeze-dried berries are not.

One study found that although baking blueberries reduced their anthocyanin content, total antioxidant concentrations remained the same. Arterial function improved similarly in people who consumed baked or freeze-dried berries (57).

Summary

Berries have been found to improve arterial function in several studies in healthy people, those with metabolic syndrome, and people who smoke.

11. Delicious Alone or in Healthy Recipes

Berries are undeniably delicious. They make a wonderful snack or dessert, whether you use one type or a mix of two or more.

Though they're naturally sweet and require no additional sweetener, adding a bit of heavy or whipped cream can transform them into a more elegant dessert.

For breakfast, try berries topped with either plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese, along with some chopped nuts.

Another way to include berries in your diet is as part of a salad.

To discover the nearly endless versatility of berries, browse the internet for healthy recipes.

Summary

Berries are delicious when served alone, with cream, or in healthy recipes.

The Bottom Line

Berries taste great, are highly nutritious, and provide many health benefits, including for your heart and skin.

By including them in your diet on a regular basis, you can improve your overall health in a very enjoyable way.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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