Health Benefits of Antioxidants - Antioxidant Rich Foods: Berries
What do Wine, Green Tea, and Blueberries Have in Common?
Antioxidants. Studies have shown that antioxidants assist in slowing the aging process and lowering the risk for many diseases, including certain cancers and heart disease. Antioxidants are found in large quantities in berries. Doctors are now recommending berries to treat specific medical conditions, such as bladder infections, arthritis and even visual problems.
Studies indicate that dark red and blue berries help stabilize the collagen in the cartilage of major joints. Cartilage acts as the “cushion” of the joint. So improving the cartilage’s integrity will most likely reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation that is often associated with arthritis.
Kinds of Berries
There are so many different varieties of berries in our country. The most common include blackberries, black currant, blueberries, boysenberries, cranberries, lingonberries, raspberries, and strawberries. It is known that the darker the berry is, the higher its level of antioxidants. Berry antioxidants are also known as anthocyanins; it is a specific pigment found abundantly in plants. Blueberries have the highest level of anthocyanins of all the berries.
Deep red and purple berries, as well as Concord grapes, are packed with not only antioxidants, but with a wide array of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant compounds used to strengthen the immune system) – the most common of which include anthocyanins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Scientific research increasingly shows that the nutrients found in these and many whole foods work together synergistically to contribute to good health in many ways. Synergy is the working together of two or more things (vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients for example) to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.
What Else do Berries Contain?
Fresh berries, in addition to antioxidants, also contain high amounts of fiber, vitamin C, and folate. Vitamin C is, of course, a well-known antioxidant. Fiber not only is good for colon health, but it also helps maintain low levels of cholesterol and assists in stabilizing blood sugar. Folate is well known for preventing Spina Bifida when used by pregnant women; it is also referred to as folic acid. Folate has other benefits: helps lower homocysteine levels (a protein byproduct thought to increase risk of stroke and heart disease).
Sources of Antioxidants
Jams and jellies are a surprisingly good source of antioxidants. When baking or making jam, where high temperatures are used, studies have shown that the heat doesn’t appear to deactivate the antioxidant ability of raspberries. So go ahead and enjoy one or two tablespoons with your toast, muffin, scone – it’ll provide you with a great source of anthocyanins.
Juice that is made from berries isn’t as rich in antioxidants and should be consumed in moderation due to its quantity of sugar.
Choose fresh berries in season whenever possible; they are among the most perishable. Don’t keep berries more than 2-3 days, as their taste and antioxidant potential decreases quickly after that.
Berries are truly Mother Nature’s gift to us so we should enjoy them in good health.