Considered to be a top superfood, berries provide amazing benefits to the body that you just simply can’t get anywhere else.
In addition to being delicious, berries provide antioxidants, are high in fiber, are low in calories and can help with weight loss.
In this article, I’ll provide some of the latest research on why and how you should increase your intake of various types of berries to optimize your health in ways you never thought possible.
Berries Provide Loads Of Antioxidants
You’ve probably heard that antioxidants are important for health, but do you actually know why?
Through various chemical processes in the body, atoms gain and lose electrons. This is a natural process that happens everywhere in nature. However, sometimes these atoms lose electrons, which make them unstable.
As a result, these atoms begin trying to pair with other atoms to become stable again. However, this causes a chain reaction as one becomes stable, another becomes unstable, creating what are called free radicals.
These free radicals can continue this process, eventually causing damage to cells.
While this is a natural process, if the amount of free radicals begins to overtake the amount of antioxidants, this can cause disease and other ailments.
However, antioxidants are stable atoms, which can donate electrons to these free radicals, neutralizing them. Luckily, berries are strong providers of these antioxidants, fighting off damaging free radicals.
In fact, studies have revealed that berries of all different sorts, (including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cranberries), provide a wide range of antioxidants which all have different unique roles and tastes.
In fact, many of these berries have been linked to the prevention of common, and potentially life-threatening, diseases such as inflammation, cardiovascular disease and even potentially some forms of cancer (1, 2, 3).
Berries Can Improve Brain Health
For quite some time, researchers and experts thought that once you lose brain cells, they were gone forever. As it turns out, that could not be further from the truth.
In fact, one of the main determinants of brain cell growth is a protein known as BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.
In addition to allowing for brain cell growth, this protein has also been implicated in numerous diseases if it starts to decline. For example, studies have shown that when BDNF decreases, there is often a link with issues such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even depression (4).
In fact, targeting BDNF is a new route that many scientists are taking in the fight against depression. Interestingly, some studies indicate that berries such as blueberries actually increase activity of BDNF in various different parts of the brain.
It appears that a specific antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is commonly found in blueberries, may be the reason behind blueberries being so beneficial.
The same study showed that use of blueberries improved short-term memory, in addition to expression of BDNF in the hippocampus – a region of the brain associated with memory (4).
Based on the present research, increasing berry consumption may be advantageous for improving or maintaining brain health and cognitive function, especially as we start to age.
Berries Can Help Stave Off Hunger & Lose Weight
Berries, like some other vegetables, can provide a large amount of fiber, have a low calorie density and are a perfect weight loss food.
Fiber is not only beneficial for encouraging digestion; it actually plays a large role in how quickly food moves through your digestive system and how that affects your feelings of hunger (5, 6, 7).
When fiber, in particular soluble fiber, is digested, it forms a gel, which can slow down how quickly the food you ingest travels through your digestive tract. This can have a two-fold effect.
Firstly, by slowing the speed at which food leaves your stomach, you can ensure that you’ll have feelings of satisfaction for much longer and thus, reduced hunger.
Additionally, this slowing of food leaving the stomach can have a potent effect on reducing blood sugar spikes. In return, this can reduce the speed and amount of insulin released into the bloodstream, preventing potential issues later on such as insulin resistance, which has been linked to obesity and diabetes.
Lastly, berries also have a large volume to calorie ratio meaning that you can consume a large quantity of them, while having very little impact on the total amount of calories that you are consuming.
Over time, this can play a major role in attempts to lose weight, since you’ll be able to consume fewer calories. Numerous studies have supported these mechanisms, showing enhanced weight loss when people include low energy / calorie dense foods and berries.
Berries Are Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is actually a standard biological process to help reduce potential threats to the body.
Under normal circumstances a threat such as a virus or a wound occurs and causes a response from the immune system, resulting in inflammation. However, due to many different variables, many people in the modern world now have what is known as ‘chronic, widespread inflammation’ in the body that can lead to disease and disorders (1, 2).
Fortunately, berries are rich in antioxidants that can help combat this inflammation and potentially reduce the risk of numerous inflammatory related diseases such as diabetes, cancers, heart disease, arthritis and more.
In fact, one study indicated that, much like with BDNF (which we discussed above in regards to the brain), the anthocyanin content of berries might play a significant role in the reduction of systemic inflammation. Other studies have shown similar effects when subjects were exposed to potentially inflammatory meals, they found berries helped reduce these inflammatory levels (3).
Berries act as potent antioxidants that can help regulate the immune response and eliminate widespread inflammation which is key for long-term health, especially if you are currently carrying excess body fat (as you will likely have high levels of inflammation as well).
How to Eat More Berries Everyday
There are a few great tactics to make it easier and cheaper to include 1-3 portions of berries per day.
Firstly, frozen berries tend to be a much more cost effective solution most of the time. Of course, during summer and depending on your location, fresh berries can also be fairly cheap to buy.
When buying your berries, try to get a varied intake and include a mix of all berries including:
There are a few great meals and snacks I often recommend to get your daily berry fix and, of course, they can also be eaten alone as a snack or as a healthy dessert after a main meal.
Here are a few meals and snacks you can try:
- Berries and High Protein Yogurt
- Berry Smoothie made with frozen or fresh berries, yogurt, milk, ice, stevia
- Berries with a Protein shake as a weight loss friendly, high protein snack
- Berries in your salads
- Berries mixed into casein protein to make a berry--based protein pudding
Berries Are The Ultimate Superfood
Increasing your intake of various types of berries will benefit your life in many ways. For health and disease risk, berries are one of the best natural life insurance policies you could take!
In addition to being high in fiber and relatively low in calories, research is beginning to unveil that berries provide potent antioxidants that extend further than simply acting as antioxidants.
Studies are even showing improvements of various types of diseases and even improvements in brain health with consumption of berries making them an essential part of your diet for anyone looking to optimize health.
- Joseph, S. V., Edirisinghe, I., & Burton-Freeman, B. M. (2014). Berries: anti-inflammatory effects in humans. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 62(18), 3886-3903.
- Ellis, C. L., Edirisinghe, I., Kappagoda, T., & Burton-Freeman, B. (2011). Attenuation of meal-induced inflammatory and thrombotic responses in overweight men and women after 6-week daily strawberry (Fragaria) intake. Journal of atherosclerosis and thrombosis, 18(4), 318-327.
- Cooke, D., Steward, W. P., Gescher, A. J., & Marczylo, T. (2005). Anthocyans from fruits and vegetables–does bright colour signal cancer chemopreventive activity?. European Journal of Cancer, 41(13), 1931-1940.
- Rendeiro, C., Vauzour, D., Rattray, M., Waffo-Téguo, P., Mérillon, J. M., Butler, L. T., … & Spencer, J. P. (2013). Dietary levels of pure flavonoids improve spatial memory performance and increase hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor. PloS one, 8(5), e63535.
- Bolton, R. P., Heaton, K. W., & Burroughs, L. F. (1981). The role of dietary fiber in satiety, glucose, and insulin: studies with fruit and fruit juice. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 34(2), 211-217.
- Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.
- Skrovankova, S., Sumczynski, D., Mlcek, J., Jurikova, T., & Sochor, J. (2015). Bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity in different types of berries. International journal of molecular sciences, 16(10), 24673-24706.
- Mazzoni, L., Perez‐Lopez, P., Giampieri, F., Alvarez‐Suarez, J. M., Gasparrini, M., Forbes‐Hernandez, T. Y., … & Battino, M. (2016). The genetic aspects of berries: from field to health. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 96(2), 365-371.