Like King Kong atop the Empire State Building, berries have a firm grip on the top tiers of the USDA polyphenol list.An abundance of anthocyanins, a subclass of polyphenols, might account for this preeminence.These phytochemical compounds neutralize the kind of free-radical damage that can accelerate aging and raise disease risk.
Anthocyanins might also help dieters by increasing production of the protein adiponectin and the hormone leptin, which enhance fat metabolism and suppress appetite, respectively.An additional benefit for those at risk of diabetes: Research suggests anthocyanins may spur insulin production.
All this for roughly 40-60 calories a cup, with no cholesterol and sodium.So check out your favorite pick below, and find out why berries are your body’s best friend.
Blueberries: High on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) scale–a ranking of antioxidant activity–blueberries provide nutrients that support brain health.The pioneering blueberry researcher James Joseph PhD, believes blueberries’ main benefit may be their ability to help reverse some loss of memory and motor coordination associated with aging.”I can tell you that after doing this research, I now eat a cup of blueberries every day,” said Joseph.Bonus: Like cranberries, blueberries contain phytochemicals that may offer to protect against urinary tract infections (UTI’s) by preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.Binge on berries with our previously featured “Blueberry Walnut Tea Bread.”
Strawberries: Sometimes called “the other miracle berry,” strawberries are the top berry source of vitamin C and quercetin. Cornell University researchers found that quercetin may help prevent Alzheimer’s by protecting brain cells from oxidation, in basic studies. Quercetin also has anti-inflammatory properties that may promote heart, prostate and lung health, in lab experiments. Just one cup of strawberries contains over 140% of your daily requirement for vitamin C.For a yummy way to enjoy strawberries, try our “Strawberry Chef’s Salad.”
Cranberries: While their anthocyanins, vitamin C and fiber make them a food supportive of heart health. Just about everyone’s heard of the cranberry juice treatment for UTI’s, but new research suggests the same proanthocyanidins that might keep bacteria away from your bladder walls may help suppress herpes outbreaks.Here’s our favorite cranberry treat: “Tangy Cran-Apple Crisp.”
Raspberries: Raspberries also support the heart. In fact they’re the top berry source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Don’t forget that the fiber from fruits and vegetables may also protect the prostate.Most Americans get less than half the daily fiber recommendation (38g/day for men, 25g/day for women). With 8 grams of fiber in just one cup of raspberries, you’re well on your way to meeting your fiber needs. For a delicious way to get your raspberries, try them in this issue’s featured recipe, “Banana-Berry Blizzard.”
Blackberries: Blackberries contain compounds currently being studies for their potential to prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HA’s)–carcinogenic by-products of meat grilling. DNN fans will recall reading about a similar effect from rosemary extract, explored in “Scarborough Fare.” Blackberries are the top berry source of vitamin K, which helps promote strong bones.For an easy way to add blackberries to your diet, try our “Blackberry Sorbet.
Published June 1, 2006