Luscious, sweet and teasingly tart: Berries are the crown jewels of the fruit kingdom. Taste is reason enough to include cranberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries in your meals and snacks. But berries also pack a nutritional punch that far exceeds their diminutive size, say nutrition experts. Berries may contribute to everything from the glow in your skin to your mental acuity, suggests scientific research.
In fact, plant chemicals in berries may help prevent certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes and may reverse the effects of aging by improving your memory and motor skills.
A rainbow of health
Color is the key to a berry’s health potential. The reds and blues are keys to flavonoids, which are antioxidants that keep the body from aging.
Take the blue in blueberries, for example. This fruit is high in a particular family of color pigments called anthocyanins, which have been shown to stall brain aging in rats. Cranberries, which are readily available during the fall, are also high in anthocyanins.
On the red side, strawberries contain a substance called ellagic acid, which has been shown to inhibit the development of cancer cells in test tubes and in animal studies. In addition, bright deep red strawberries and cherries (although not berries, cherries contain some of the same potentially beneficial pigments as strawberries) have anti-inflammatory qualities.
The vitamin C advantage
But berries are just as important to your everyday wellbeing as they are to your long-term health, say dietitians.
All berries are high in vitamin C, and getting enough vitamin C is important to improve your body’s immune system and help your body absorb iron. That’s especially important for women because they can become anemic.
But vitamin C’s effects don’t just show up inside your body: If you want your skin to look good, eating berries rich in vitamin C may help, say dietitians.
Health advantages aside, people still eat for the pleasure of it, and that’s where berries really deliver. With their natural sugar and sass, berries make delicious toppings for Sunday waffles and pancakes or breakfast cereal, and they’re great layered in parfaits or even sprinkled on salads. In a world where the tastiest foods always seem to reside in the wrong part of the food pyramid, berries offer a chance to indulge without guilt. So, dig in!