Berries Are Among the Healthiest Fruits
Berries full of phytonutrients and antioxidants
Berries are among the healthiest fruits because of their powerful phyto-nutrients and antioxidant properties. The dark colored berries such as blueberries and blackberries are especially potent. Their pigment is an indication of their phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are nutrients in plants that confer healthful properties when consumed. I write more about phytonutrients in another article.
For example, blueberries contains a phytonutrient called anthocyanin which is what gives blueberries its dark pigment. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant that is beneficial to health by reducing oxidative damage caused by free radical molecules.
Strawberries also contains anthocyanins. Strawberries contains a combination of phytonutrients (such as anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids) that works synergistically with each other. With anthocyanins In combination with high levels of vitamin C, strawberries ranks very high in foods with antioxidant properties. One cup of strawberries contain more than the government percentage daily value of vitamin C.
Not only that, strawberries has anti-inflammatory properties. When consumed more than three times a week, a study showed that it was able to reduce the CRP marker of inflammation in the body.
Berries for Brain Health
Many reports suggest that blueberries may improve brain health by helping to reduce cognitive and memory declines.
Bloomberg reports of a study where women who ate blueberries or strawberries had memories performance equivalent to those 2.5 years younger. How much berries they ate? The woman who had better memories at 1+ servings of blueberries or 2+ serving of strawberries a week over two decades.
It is believed that the contributing ingredient is the anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid) which is able to cross the blood brain barrier and reduce low-level inflammation.
Although the study noted an association which does not necessarily mean a cause and effect. For example, the women in the study who ate a lot of berries also exercised more and higher incomes. So those factors can not be entirely separated from the berry factor.
What About the Sugar in Berries?
It is true that berries contain sugar. Many low-carb and low-sugar diets adopted by diabetics will say to consume fruits either in moderation or not at all depending on your condition. For example, the "Advanced Plan" in Dr. Hyman's Blood Sugar Solution, will not allow fruits except for half a cup of berries a day. That is a testament of berries as a favored fruit status as it is the only fruit to be allowed.
Sugar is part glucose and part fructose. Glucose is one possible source of fuel for nearly all cells in your body. Fructose is the bigger problem and is what Dr. Robert Lustig calls a toxin. Fructose is metabolized by a different pathway from glucose. Fructose is said to raise triglyceride levels (which is a bad marker of cardiovascular health).
However, Joy Bauer says that ...
"fruit contains only moderate amounts of fructose and is perfectly healthy".[reference]
This is because the fructose in fruit is diluted with water and fiber of the fruit. As Dr. Robert Lustig said, when nature made the poison (fructose) it was packaged with the antidote (which is the fiber). Note that we are talking about "fresh fruits" which contains water and fiber. Not dried fruits which does not have nearly the same benefits as fresh fruits.
Dr. Kurt Harris writes that ...
"You won't get too much fructose eating reasonable quantities of fruit"
World's Healthiest Foods website says ...
"Eating fresh fruit does not elevate your triglyceride level."
and that ...
"Participants in the study who consumed at last 3 servings of low-GI fruits per day (including blueberries) saw significant improvement in their regulation of blood sugar over a three-month period of time."
Interestingly, some researcher also found that strawberries can help regular blood sugar response due to the polyphenols in them.
Fructose is indeed a problem when it is in high doses without fiber, such as in high fructose corn syrup and in sugary beverage. And those should be avoided.
If you are concern about the fructose content in fruits, you can see fructose content of certain fruits on Loren Cordain's website.
Berries are Best Fruit for Optimal Health
In the video on the right, Dr. Andrew Weil answers the question of "What's the Best Fruit for Optimal Health?"
He says berries since they are ...
- full of phyto-nutrients
- low glycemic load
- full of anti-oxidants
The glycemic load refers to the glycemic index of a carbohydrate which tells us how quickly it turns into sugar. With glucose as a reference at a glycemic index of 100, blueberries have a glycemic index of 40-53. Strawberries are a little bit better with a lower glycemic index of around 30.
In the "Ask The Experts" section of the book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, the experts were asked what are the healthiest food they eat. And ...
"The clear winners were blueberries (and other berries), spinach (and kale), nuts (especially almonds), broccoli, and wild salmon, with grass-fed beef a very close runner-up." [page 16]
The book Primal Body, Primal Mind writes that ...
"Limit the amount of fruit, and stick mostly to berries when you do eat fruit (berries are lower in sugar, higher in fiber, and much richer in antioxidants than other sources of fruit). [page 143]
Avocado Runner Up
If berries are the healthiest fruit, then avocado is a close runner up. Yes, avocado is a fruit (not a vegetable). Read more about the health benefits of avocados.