Health and Nutrition Benefits of Raspberries and Blackberries

blackberry_beauty_shotThere are many good reasons to eat raspberries and blackberries.

They are high in Vitamin C, which prevents scurvy, reduces risk of stroke, and helps prevent cancer initiation. They are good sources of Folate, which is an especially important nutrient for pregnant women, since it helps prevent neural tube (spinal column) defects. It may also help prevent heart disease. They are cholesterol free and virtually fat free. They are sources of dietary fiber that lowers cholesterol and may help prevent colon cancer and heart disease. They are low in calories. All these make bramble fruit a good addition to your diet.

But that’s not all. Raspberries and blackberries have been shown to contain healthful substances which research shows may slow down the aging process, boost immunity, and protect against chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer. (See Phytochemicals in Raspberries and Blackberries)

An increasing number of studies link various foods–especially berries and other intensely colored fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, blueberries, and carrots–with improved health and disease prevention. Some of the healthful, bioactive substances in these foods appear to be the pigments that give them their bright colors. Others are flavor compounds, such as those that give an astringent taste to the seeds.

For example, anthocyanin, which gives berries their red color, is an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, which may cause aging of cells. Researchers are currently linking anthocyanin activity to improving vision, controlling diabetes, improving circulation, preventing cancer and heart disease, and retarding the effects of aging, particularly loss of memory and motor skills. Ellagic acid, a phenolic compound found in berries, has exhibited anti-carcinogenic effects against a wide range of carcinogens in several tissues. And ellagic acid has been shown, in studies with rats and mice, to contribute to significant inhibition of colon, esophageal, liver,lung, tongue, and skin cancers.

Why not just take a nutritional supplement?

When it comes to nutrition, no one has been able to outsmart Mother Nature. Research shows that it is a combination of phytochemicals working together with the berry’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals which make it so effective. For example, the combination of anthocyanins, Vitamin C, and ellagic acid can act together, contributing to berries’ high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value, a measure of antioxidant effectiveness. Antioxidants are shown to work best when combined; the presence of fiber, and other plant compounds enhance the health benefit. Scientists have also found that raspberries blackberries may have cancer-fighting properties, but cannot attribute them to only one component.  For these reasons, a nutraceutical source — a food with health properties — is a more viable antioxidant option than a dietary supplement. And a lot tastier!