The Benefits of Berries
Fresh berries are now in season, and I couldn't be happier. Not only are these babies unbelievably delicious, they're also brimming with health benefits. Here's the lowdown on four favorites: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
One cup of strawberries (about 8 berries) has 50 calories, 3 grams of fiber and more vitamin C than a medium orange. They're also an excellent source of fiber, folate and potassium. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ranked strawberries third out of more than 1,000 antioxidant-rich foods. Strawberries also contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the nervous system and blood vessels.
Studies have shown that strawberries can help protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon and leukemia. Research has also found that strawberries help decrease inflammation and control type 2 diabetes. In addition, one study found that eating 8 strawberries a day for 8 weeks helped lower homocysteine levels, a leading risk factor for heart disease.
One cup of these fruits has 84 calories and close to 4 grams of fiber. Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Research has found that blueberries may help prevent prostate cancer and protect against heart disease. Animal research has also found that blueberry extract may help improve memory, balance and coordination—potentially promising for those with Alzheimer's disease.
One cup of raspberries has 70 calories and is an excellent source of vitamin C. The serving is also a good source of fiber, phosphorus and selenium. Raspberries contain anthocyanins (mentioned above) and another phytochemical called quercetin, found to help slow cancer growth.
As with the other berries, studies have shown that raspberries may be useful in preventing esophageal and liver cancer. Raspberries have also been shown to help control blood sugar in diabetics and help prevent liver damage.
One cup of blackberries has 62 calories, 8 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins C and K and manganese. Blackberries have been found to have the highest amount of antioxidants – higher than the other 3 berries mentioned above! They're also bursting with all types of phytochemicals, which have been shown to help fight or prevent cancers like liver, colon, lung and esophogeal. Blackberries also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may help decrease the risk of heart disease.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »