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11 Reasons Why Berries Are Among the Healthiest Foods on Earth

Young Blonde Woman Holding Two StrawberriesBerries are among the
healthiest foods you can eat.

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

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

1. Berries Are Loaded With Antioxidants

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

Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur as a normal
byproduct of metabolism. It’s important to have a small amount
of free radicals in your body to help defend against bacteria
and viruses (1).

However, free radicals can also damage your cells when present
in excessive amounts. Antioxidants can help neutralize these
compounds.

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 the risk of disease (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, when healthy people consumed 17 ounces (500
grams) of strawberry pulp every day for 30 days, one
pro-oxidant marker decreased by 38% (9).

Bottom Line: Berries are high in
antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which may protect cells
from free radical damage.

2. Berries May Help Improve Blood Sugar and Insulin Response

Berries may improve your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Test-tube and human studies suggest they may protect 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 of healthy women, consuming 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, insulin-resistant people
who consumed a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced
greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than the group who
consumed smoothies without berries (14).

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

3. Berries Are High in Fiber

Berries are a good source of fiber,
including soluble fiber. Studies have shown 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 help your body absorb up to 130 fewer
calories per day (17).

In addition, the high fiber content of berries means that their
digestible or net carb content is low. Net carbs are calculated
by subtracting fiber from total carbs.

Here are the carb and fiber counts per one-cup serving of
berries:

  • Raspberries: 15 grams of carbs, 8 of which
    are fiber (18).
  • Blackberries: 15 grams of carbs, 8 of which
    are fiber (19).
  • Strawberries: 12 grams of carbs, 3 of which
    are fiber (20).
  • Blueberries: 21 grams of carbs, 4 of which
    are fiber (21).

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

Bottom Line: Berries contain fiber, which
may help decrease appetite, increase feelings of fullness and
reduce the number of calories your body absorbs from mixed
meals.

4. Berries Provide Many Nutrients

Bowl of Berries

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, one cup 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 contents.

Below is the nutrition content of a one-cup (144-gram) serving
of blackberries (19):

  • Calories: 62.
  • Vitamin C: 50% of the RDI.
  • Manganese: 47% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin K: 36% of the RDI.
  • Copper: 12% of the RDI.
  • Folate: 9% of the RDI.

The calorie count for one cup of berries ranges from 49 for
strawberries
to 84 for
blueberries
, making berries some of the lowest-calorie
fruits around.

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

5. The Antioxidants in Them Help Fight Inflammation

Pile of Strawberries

Berries have strong anti-inflammatory
properties.

Inflammation is your body’s way of mounting a defense against
infection or injury.

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

This type of chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to
the development of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, among
other diseases (22, 23, 24).

Inflammation in the body is measured by looking at changes in
certain markers, such as IL-6 and CRP. Elevated levels of CRP have been linked to an
increased risk of heart disease (25).

Studies suggest that the antioxidants in berries may help lower
these inflammatory markers (26, 27, 28, 29).

In one study, when overweight people consumed a strawberry
beverage with a high-carb, high-fat meal, their IL-6 and CRP
levels decreased significantly more than the group who consumed
a beverage without strawberries (29).

Bottom Line: Berries may help reduce
inflammation and decrease the risk of heart disease and other
health problems.

6. Berries May Help Lower Cholesterol Levels

Berries are a heart-healthy food.

Black raspberries and strawberries have been shown to
help lower cholesterol
in obese people and those with
metabolic syndrome (30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).

In one study, adults with metabolic syndrome who consumed a
beverage made from freeze-dried strawberries daily for eight
weeks experienced an 11% drop in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
(32).

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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 (33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38).

In a controlled study, when obese people consumed 1.5 ounces
(50 grams) of freeze-dried blueberries for eight weeks, their
oxidized LDL levels decreased by 28% (38).

Bottom Line: Berries have been shown to
lower LDL cholesterol levels and help protect LDL cholesterol
from becoming oxidized.

7. Berries May Be Good for Your Skin

Pile of Blackberries

In addition to their many other health benefits, berries may
help reduce skin wrinkling.

This makes sense, given that the antioxidants in berries help
control free radicals, one of the leading causes of skin damage
that contributes to aging (39).

Although there isn’t a lot of research at this point, ellagic
acid appears to be responsible for some of berries’
skin-related benefits.

Test-tube and animal studies suggest that this antioxidant may
help protect skin by blocking the production of enzymes that
break down collagen in sun-damaged skin (40, 41, 42).

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

In one study, applying ellagic acid to the skin of hairless
mice that were exposed to ultraviolet light for eight weeks
decreased inflammation and helped protect collagen from damage
(42).

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

8. Berry Antioxidants May Help Protect Against Cancer

Several antioxidants in berries, including anthocyanins,
ellagic acid and resveratrol, may reduce the risk of cancer
(43, 44, 45).

Specifically, animal and human studies suggest that berries may
help protect against cancer of the esophagus, mouth, breast and
colon (46, 47, 48, 49, 50).

In one study, 20 patients with colon cancer consumed 2 ounces
(60 grams) of freeze-dried raspberries for 1–9 weeks. This
treatment was found to improve tumor markers in some patients,
although not all (50).

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
(51).

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

9. Berries Can Be Enjoyed on Nearly All Types of Diets

Woman's Hands Holding a Small Box of Berries

Fortunately, berries can be included in many kinds of diets.

Although people on
low-carb
and ketogenic
diets
often avoid fruit, they can usually enjoy moderate
amounts of berries. For example, a half-cup serving of
blackberries or raspberries contains less than 4 grams of
digestible carbs.

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

For people who want to lose weight, the low 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 are 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.

Bottom Line: Berries can be enjoyed on most
diets because they are low in calories and carbs and widely
available in fresh or frozen forms.

10. They May Help Keep Your Arteries Healthy

Raspberries

In addition to lowering cholesterol, berries provide other
benefits for heart health. One of these is better function of
your arteries.

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

Excessive inflammation can damage them, inhibiting proper
function. The term for this is endothelial dysfunction, and it’s a major risk
factor for heart disease (52).

Berries have been shown to improve endothelial function in
studies in healthy adults, individuals with metabolic syndrome
and smokers (30, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57).

In a controlled study of 44 people with metabolic syndrome,
those who consumed a daily blueberry smoothie showed
significant improvements in endothelial function, compared to
those who consumed a smoothie without blueberries (57).

Even though fresh berries are considered the 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 (58).

Bottom Line: Berries have been found to
improve arterial function in several studies of healthy
people, those with metabolic syndrome and smokers.

11. Berries Are Delicious Alone or in Healthy Recipes

Salad with Strawberries, Watermelon and Mint Leaves

Berries are undeniably delicious.

They make a wonderful snack or dessert, whether you use one
type of berry or a mixture of two or more.

Although they are 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.

Here are a few healthy salad recipes featuring berries:

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

Take Home Message

Berries taste great, are highly nutritious and provide many
health benefits.

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

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