Nothing quite tastes like summer more than a handful of fresh-picked berries. Blueberries and raspberries, two of the most popular berries out there, shine like jewels in any dish from breakfast bowls to desserts to an array of berry baked goods. Don’t let these berries mesmerize you with their just their bright colors though; these berries are jam-packed (jam, get it?) with phytonutrients and antioxidants. So, let’s break it down one berry at a time and discover the health benefits offered by both blueberries and raspberries.
Did you know blueberries are the only fruit native to North America? Use that for your fun fact of the day. Blueberries were enjoyed by Native Americans for hundreds of years before anyone else even knew the little blue guys existed. Still today, the United States cultivates and supplies over half of all the blueberries on a global basis. Belonging to the Heath family, along with cranberries, blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They boast deep blue colors with maroon to purple-black hues. Vibrant colors, like those of blueberries, are a give-away for health benefits. Compounds called flavonoids and anthocyanins create the pigments while also helping to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease by providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The synergistic properties of flavonoids and anthocyanins, paired with additional phytonutrients from blueberries, protect against more than just cancer and heart disease too. Adding blueberries to a healthy diet can strengthen many body systems including the muscle, nervous, and regulatory systems. Recent research has been especially focused on nervous system protection and the potential benefits this leads to in cognition. Nerve cells are naturally at high risk of oxygen damage and they require antioxidant protection at all times. With the antioxidants from blueberries maintaining smoothly working nerve cells, healthy cognitive function is good to go! See this article for more on berries and memory. Now, take advantage of that healthy cognition of yours and check out the nutrient list.
Nutrients in 1 cup (148 g):
- 36% Daily Value of Vitamin K
- 25% Daily Value of Manganese
- 24% Daily Value of Vitamin C
- 14% Daily Value of Fiber
Hidden between dark leafy greens, blueberries are actually also a great source of vitamin K! Vitamin K helps maintain healthy blood flow and the phytonutrients in blueberries take it one step farther by protecting blood components from oxygen damage that could lead to clogging. For more info on vitamin K and delicious plants, check out this article.
You can get the most bang for you buck nutritional-wise by munching on blueberries at their ripest. And, freezing is always a good option for stocking up to enjoy the fruit later without damaging those precious phytonutrients! Same goes for raspberries, featured next.
Raspberries have a sweet yet tangy flavor bursting from tiny individual fruits that make up the raspberry as a whole. Because of this structure, raspberries are considered “aggregate” fruits. Among the 200 plus species, there are three basic groups of raspberries: red (most common), black, and purple. These three groups share similar nutritional profiles so pick whichever group is most convenient for you! Raspberries belong to the Rose family of plants along with apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, and even almonds are a distant cousin. Check out the nutrient list for raspberries to see how they stand out from their other family fruits.
Nutrients in 1 cup (123 g):
- 54% Daily Value of Vitamin C
- 41% Daily Value of Manganese
- 32% Daily Value of Fiber
- 12% Daily Value of Vitamin K
Current research is underway to study the potential link between obesity and raspberry consumption. A phytonutrient abundant in raspberries called rheosmin, also known as raspberry ketone, has the ability to increase enzyme activity, oxygen consumption, and heat production in certain types of fat cells thus putting fat metabolism into warp speed and decreasing the risk of obesity as well as fatty liver disease. Additionally, raspberry ketone decreases the activity of a fat-digesting enzyme released by the pancreas. Less fat digestion = less absorption of fat! Besides protecting against obesity, raspberries contain other phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory benefits. One such phytonutrient is called ellagic acid which helps prevent the over-activity and overproduction of certain pro-inflammatory enzymes. Ellagic acid also teams up with raspberries’ antioxidants to signal for programmed cell death among potential or existing cancer cells. This berry really doesn’t mess around when it comes to maintaining good health so be sure to stock up!
With the perfect size for grab-and-go snacking, burst of juicy sweetness in each morsel, and health benefits galore, which berry will you choose? Indecisive? Have both :)
One Green Planet blueberry recipes here
One Green Planet raspberry recipes here
Image source: Dano/Flickr