Berry Good For You: The Top 5 Healthiest Berries

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are the crowning jewel of the berry world. Blueberries have shown to be one of the richest natural sources of antioxidants. As you age, oxidative damage, the “free radicals” you might have heard of, has the potential to cause damage to your DNA. That is why research suggests that a high level of dietary antioxidants may delay or prevent a variety of age-related diseases. As you age, your body is less able to defend against oxidation, free radicals and oxidative stress. This damage can lead to disease, however, a diet high in antioxidants may leave you better prepared to mount a defense against oxidative stress and damage and maintain optimal health.

Research has shown that antioxidants like the ones found in blueberries may have a strong influence on the prevention of a number of diseases and conditions, including:
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Alzheimer's 
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Glaucoma
  • Varicose veins
  • Peptic ulcers

In addition to their strong antioxidant levels, blueberries have also found to contain resveratrol, another potential anti-cancer agent also found in grapes. Blueberries are great sources of Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

2. Cherries

If life is just a bowl of cherries, we are doing pretty well since cherries are second only to blueberries in their antioxidant content and offer other compounds not found in blueberries do. Cherries contain anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that gives them their distinctive red colour. Anthocyanins offer significant potential health benefits and may act as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial among others. Cherries are also rich in quercetin, a powerful flavonoid that may offer benefits to:
  • Cardiac health
  • Joint pain
  • Allergies as quercetin is a natural antihistamine
  • Arthritis --suppress inflammation induced pain & lower c reactive proteins, a measure of inflammation Diabetes—may lower blood sugar levels
  • Inhibit growth of cancer cells—breast, colon, prostate among others 

While all cherries offer health benefits, the highest levels of quercetin and anthocyanins appear to be found in tart cherry juice. Ideally, you should look for a product that contains only tart cherry juice, no additional sugar or grape juice as the higher sugar content will likely mitigate any health benefits you get. Tart cherry juice concentrates are available and work well. You can add a little juice to a smoothie, sparkling water or still water or even add a splash to a salad dressing for a healthy zing.

3. Strawberries

Strawberries offer a broad range of nutrients like vitamin C, anthocyanins, phenols, kaempferol, quercetin, folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin k, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. This makes strawberries potential powerful cancer fighters. The vitamin C in strawberries aids your immune system, may lower blood pressure and stave off the development of age related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. Strawberries also contain phenols, which may offer protection against inflammatory disorders like asthma, atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis.

4. Blackberries

Blackberries are a rich and low fat source of vitamin E. Blackberries also contain salicylates, which may lower your risk of heart disease. Blackberries are also high in vitamin C, phenolic acids and folate. The phytoestrogens in blackberries may offer relief for the symptoms of both PMS and menopause. Likewise, blackberries are a great source of ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant that protects skin against UV damage.

5. Cranberries

The flavonoid content of cranberries make them powerful antioxidants. As a good source of anthocyanins, proanthocyanins and flavonols, cranberries offer benefits such as
  • Powerful cancer fighters
  • Prevent urinary tract infections
  • Minimise risk of GI diseases, including ulcers as well as gastric cancer 
  • Lower risk of hearth disease

Of course all berries offer tremendous health benefits and the best diet is one that offers the most variety of plant based foods. This maximises the amount of all the varying healthy compounds you get. Berries are a great way to get your fruit servings in. Eat them by the handful or add a few to a salad or smoothie.

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