Superfoods: Part 3 – Berries

9 mins read

This article explains the health benefits of berries that are in the superfood group.

When you hear the word “superfood” what comes to mind? Perhaps a carrot in a cape? For those that have some understanding of what a superfood is, they may picture superfoods such as spinach, kale, or other nutrient rich foods. For those of you that didn’t picture flavourful, colourful, and juicy berries, you may be pleasantly surprised! Many berries are considered superfoods as they are nutrient-rich in vitamins and high in antioxidants. Some of the popular superfood berries include blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries as they are low-calorie, high in fibre, and packed full of antioxidants. In this article we will take a look at 4 different superfood berries along with their juicy health benefits.

1. Blueberries

These are possibly the most popular super fruits, however many are still unaware that these berries are considered a superfood. Blueberries are native to North America and have been part of life here for over 13,000 years with the first blueberry bush having been successfully cultivated for commercial production in the early 1900s. Blueberries have a high number of anthocyanin pigments, being one of the richest sources among common fruits.1 Even a moderate amount (1/3 cup) of this super fruit daily is associated with disease risk reduction. Anthocyanins are considered an antioxidant and are linked to reduced risk of diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and neurological decline such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

2. Açai Berries

From the beautiful palm trees of Brazil and the Amazon, these dark purple super fruits are packed with nutrition and offer health benefits. Açai berries are technically a drupe as they contain a pit like apricots and olives, however they are commonly referred to as a berry. They contain omega-9 and have antioxidant levels higher than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Specifically, they have the same anthocyanin antioxidant as blueberries! Omega-9 are fatty acids that are considered nonessential as the body can produce them. However, there are studies showing that eating these monounsaturated fats provides a variety of health benefits, like helping with weight management, in comparison to other types of fats, such as saturated fats.2 The health benefits also include less inflammation and better insulin sensitivity.3

3. Goji Berries

Goji berries, also called wolfberry, are a bright orange-red berry that originate from a shrub native to China. In Asia these berries have been eaten for generations in the hope of living longer. The legendary properties of goji berries date back to over 2,000 years ago when a doctor visited a village in China where everyone was over 100 years old, and he discovered they all drank from a well surrounded by goji berries. Goji berries contain very high levels of an antioxidant called zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins A and C similarly to other berries.4 Vitamins A and C are vital for the immune system and preventing illness. These berries also contain beta-carotene which helps with skin health and managing the impact of skin aging. Studies of goji berries have shown multiple health benefits including anti-aging, antioxidative, anti-fatigue, anticancer, anti-diabetic, anti-viral, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, hypolipidemic, radioprotective, anti-osteoporosis, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulating effects. Talk about SUPER fruit!

4. Maqui Berries

The dark-purple maqui berry grows exclusively in the south of Chile, and traditionally has been used by the indigenous Chilean Mapuche people to promote strength, endurance and overall health. The Mapuche tribe was the only tribe in the Americas that wasn’t conquered by invading colonists. This berry has unusually high levels of delphinidins,5 which are antioxidants specifically linked to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.6,7,8 The anthocyanin delphinidin in maqui berry extracts has also been shown to offer protection against light induced damage caused by light exposure from sources such as the sun, fluorescent lights, computer screens, phones, and televisions.9 Studies have also shown that the plant compounds found in berries such as maqui berries can help to reshape our gut microbiota by increasing the number of good bacteria.10 A diverse gut microbiome is essential to our health and can positively influence our immune system, brain, heart, and of course our gut.11

Super Fruits

Many berries truly are super fruits and have a well-earned title as superfoods. The many health benefits described above due to their antioxidants, and rich nutrients such as vitamin A & C and beta-carotene provide us with many reasons why we should be trying to incorporate more of these delicious fruits into our everyday diet. Maybe next time that sweet tooth hits we should be reaching for a handful of some sweet super berries instead of some candy!

Next up in this series, Part 4 will describe seeds that are superfoods.

1 Kalt, Wilhelmina, et. al. “Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins.” Oxford Academic. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/11/2/224/5536953

2 Tutunchi, Helda, et. al. “The Effects of Diets Enriched in Monounsaturated Oleic Acid on the Management and Prevention of Obesity: A Systematic Review of Human Intervention Studies.” National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32135008/

3 Finucane, Orla M. “Monounsaturated Fatty Acid-Enriched High-Fat Diets Impede Adipose NLRP3 Inflammasome-Mediated IL-1β Secretion and Insulin Resistance Despite Obesity.” American Diabetes Association. https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/64/6/2116.long

4 Barhum, Lana. “What are the Health Benefits of Goji Berries?” Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322693?c=40740288828

5 Watson, R.R, F. Schonlau. “Nutraceutical and Antioxidant Effects of a Delphinidin-Rich Maqui Berry Extract Delphinol: A Review.” Edizioni Minerva Medica. https://www.minervamedica.it/en/journals/minerva-cardiology-angiology/article.php?cod=R05Y2015S01A0001

6 Chen, Jingyao, et. al. “Delphinidin Induced Protective Autophagy via mTOR Pathway Suppression and AMPK Pathway Activation in HER-2 Positive Breast Cancer Cells.” BMC Cancer. https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-018-4231-y

7 Yun, Jung-Mi, et. al. “Delphinidin, an Anthocyanidin in Pigmented Fruits and Vegetables, Induces Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest in Human Colon Cancer HCT116 Cells.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946888/

8 Bin Hafeez, Bilal, et. al. “A Dietary Anthocyanidin Delphinidin Induces Apoptosis of Human Prostate Cancer PC3 Cells In vitro and In vivo: Involvement of Nuclear Factor- κB Signaling.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149885/

9 Tanaka, Junji, et. al. “Maqui Berry (Aristotelia Chilensis) and the Constituent Delphinidin Glycoside Inhibit Photoreceptor Cell Death Induced by Visible Light.” National Library of Medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23561088/

10 Overall, John, et. al. “Metabolic Effects of Berries with Structurally Diverse Anthocyanins.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343956/

11 Zhang, Yu-Jie, et. al. “Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425030/

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