The Benefits and Dangers of Eating Berries
The benefits of eating berries are plentiful and varied, but there is potential harm. Among the chemical compounds berries contain are flavonoids (a subgroup of phenols), which make them invaluable to human health. They also contain compounds which make them dangerous to some of us.
The Beneficial Compounds in Berries
One of the most important flavonoids in berries is anthocyanins. They give berries their vibrant colors. For us humans, they act as antioxidants, removing free radicals from our cells before they do damage, and curtailing inflammation. In performing these functions, they help to reduce the risk of cancers (breast, stomach, prostate, and colon), arthritis, age-related memory loss, eyesight issues as macular degeneration and cataracts, asthma, urinary tract infections (especially the cranberries), and stress. They support a healthy immune system, and healthy skin and hair. Berries also contain the flavonoid quercetin, which helps to retard memory loss and to reduce the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, berries are generously packed with vitamin B compounds: riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folate or folic acid (B9), vitamins C, E, and K, minerals calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and fiber, and water. Though levels vary depending on the berry, the nutrients aid in building strong bones, weight loss, and in reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes (or managing it), the aging process, and depression. They also help the flavonoids perform their functions.
The (Potentially) Harmful Compounds in Berries
Salicylates, derive from salicylate acid, is another subgroup of the phenols found in berries. They help protect the plants from bacteria, fungi, and other environmental pathogens. In humans, salicylates can cause serious ailments to those who are sensitive.
Symptoms depend on the degree of sensitivity, and the amount of salicylates in a particular berry. They include nasal and sinus blockage, persistent coughing, asthma, hives, headaches, delirium, excessive talking, stomach or leg pain, swelling of face and extremities, eye and ear troubles, skin issues such changes in color, dermatitis, and psoriasis, bed-wetting, insomnia, fatigue, nervousness, paranoia, depression, mood swings, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and high blood pressure. Individuals can also develop life-threatening anaphylaxis symptoms such as drastic drops in blood pressure, unconsciousness, and organ failure.
If any of those symptoms prevail, consult your health professional, and discontinue berry consumption until you know the degree of your allergy or sensitivity to the particular berry or berries.
According to article “Library: Salicylate Sensivity-Identified Symptoms” from the website www.foodcanmakeyouill.co.uk, berries with high levels of salicylates are blackberries, boysenberries, cranberries, and strawberries. Berries with “extremely high” levels of salicylates are loganberries and raspberries.
Ironically, some research shows that salicylates could provide certain benefits. The article “Health Benefits of Blackberries” from the website www.livestrong.com, reports that the salicylates in blackberries could help prevent heart disease and atherosclerosis. Emerging research also show prevention of colon cancer.
Additional Source: www.webmd: “Salicylate Allergy”