Why do we love berries?
Let us count the ways:
#1: They Reduce Post-Workout Muscle Soreness
Berries are the perfect post-workout snack, providing antioxidants that help accelerate the removal of waste products or “garbage” produced during hard training. Once the waste products are gone, the body is better able to repair tissue, meaning less soreness and a faster recovery of strength.
#2: They Improve Insulin Sensitivity & Prevent Diabetes
The antioxidant compounds in berries have been shown to blunt the amount of insulin the body releases in response to high-carbohydrate foods. Scientists recommend adding blueberries to your oatmeal or topping toast with pure raspberry jam for steadier blood sugar response and diabetes prevention.
#3: They Help Keep Hunger At Bay
Berries contain fiber and nutrients that minimize food cravings. Raspberries contain a unique antioxidant called ellagitannins that have been shown to improve the brain’s sensitivity to leptin, making you feel less hungry.
#4: They Reduce Fat Gain
Scientists view blue, purple and red berries as a treatment for obesity. Not only are they a delicious substitute when you’ve got a sweet tooth but the anthocyanin compounds in berries appear to inhibit fat gain even when on a high-fat diet.
#5: They Protect Against Aging
Oxidative damage is a part of everyday life. It works like this: harmful free radicals are produced in response to everything from energy production to toxin exposure. These free radicals travel around and damage cells and DNA, leading to aging. Berries contain incredible antioxidants that counter this, safely eliminating free radicals from the body.
#6: They Lower Inflammation
Inflammation is the result of oxidative stress that builds up over time. Because berries neutralize inflammation, they help to minimize the progression of disease and dysfunction that occurs with aging. An easy way to visualize this: Berries contain ellagic acid, which protects your skin by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen (causing wrinkles) in response to sun exposure.
#7: They Protect Against Cancer
Berries are one of the most potent anti-cancer foods you can eat. Regular consumption of berries is associated with lower cancer rates as well as improved cancer treatment. Berries may be especially effective at targeting mouth, esophageal, breast, colon, and stomach cancer cells.
#8: They Are Beautiful
Did you know that blueberries are one of the only truly blue foods? The hues of blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are equally enticing if not as exotic. You could argue that there’s no more naturally beautiful food than berries, with their array of colors and textures.
#9: They Lower Blood Pressure
The antioxidants in berries can improve function of the endothelium, which is the inside layer of blood vessels. Along with their inflammation-lowering effects, this makes berries the perfect food for achieving a healthy blood pressure.
#10: They Protect Against Heart Disease
One review of randomized trials found that berries are an effective and safe option for preventing or controlling heart disease, conveying beneficial effects on LDL cholesterol, glucose levels, body composition, blood pressure, glycated hemoglobin, and TNF-a (a primary inflammatory marker for cardiovascular disease). Association studies also show lower rates of heart attack and heart disease in frequent berry eaters.
#11: They Improve Your Microflora
The combination of fiber and antioxidant compounds in berries can improve the diversity and health of the anti-inflammatory bacteria that live in the GI tract. This is associated with better metabolic health, lower risk of disease, and a leaner body composition.
#12: They Improve Brain Function
Blueberries improve blood flow to the brain, allowing for greater brain activation. This pays off in improved memory and better performance on cognitive tests, according to one study in which older people aged 65 to 77 drank concentrated blueberry juice for 12 weeks.
#13: They Protect Against Neurological Disease
Consumption of berries is associated with less cognitive decline during aging. Berries are also linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s due to their anti-inflammatory effects in the brain.
#14: They Improve Estrogen Metabolism
The antioxidants in berries improve activity of something called cytochrome P450, which is basically an enzyme that the body needs to eliminate drugs, hormones, and other products from the body. It’s especially important for the safe metabolism of estrogen so that it doesn’t damage cells and lead to the growth of tumors in the breast tissue.
#15: They Minimize Your Stress Response
A diet rich in berries helps turn stress into a positive. It works like this: Excess inflammation plays a big role in how we experience stress. It can impede how the brain and the adrenals communicate, leading to faulty release of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol and we feel anxious, hungry, and depressed. Too little and we are tired and overwhelmed. Eating berries can counter this, allowing us to manage stress more effectively.
How Can You Get More Berries Into Your Diet?
With summer almost here it’s the perfect time to start eating more fresh berries. They are the perfect snack and the fit into almost any dietary plan (Paleo, low-carb, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, Whole 30). Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries can be added to salads, eaten for dessert, or mixed with yogurt.
Other fresh berries that perform well in studies include chokeberries, bilberries, and lingonberries. Red grapes and cherries have similar benefits due to their high antioxidant content.
What About Frozen Berries?
Also a great choice! Frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and mixed berries are available year-round and often more affordable than fresh. You can typically get a pound of frozen berries for $2 to 3 if you look for sales or shop at discount stores. Don’t worry; there is no measurable nutritional difference between fresh and frozen berries.
What About Berry Juice?
Although juice consumption is typically associated with poorer health due to the high sugar content, pure berry juices (including blends) have been found to promote health in research studies. For example, regular orange juice consumption is linked with higher blood pressure, likely due to the high sugar content, which contributes to obesity, poor insulin sensitivity, and inflammation.
On the other hand, pure berry juices consistently perform well in both association and randomized trials in one study, a blend of berry juices (chokeberry and bilberry as well as cherry and red grape) was found to significantly lower blood pressure after 12 weeks compared to regular fruit juice.
Another example is the study referenced in #1, which showed that subjects who drank pure blueberry juice post-workout had less muscle soreness and faster recovery of strength after a tough workout.
Therefore, to get benefits, choose pure berry juice without added sugar. You can also get concentrated berry juice that you add to water. This method allows you to increase you antioxidant intake with fewer calories and less fruit sugar.
If you’re trying to reduce body fat, it’s recommended that you consume juice after workouts when insulin sensitivity is improved. Berry antioxidant powders can also be useful for increasing your intake of protective nutrients. Be sure to read labels and avoid anything with added sugar or fructose.