Berries may be helpful in the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer and heart disease. Fruits in general, and berries in particular, have the ability to suppress cancer cell growth in vitro and to reduce DNA damage induced by mutagenic agents present in cooked meat. Strawberries and raspberries can reverse precancerous oral or esophageal lesions. This anti-cancer activity occurs through mechanisms going from boosting natural killer cell activity to inhibiting angiogenesis. Though berries do not seem to lower cholesterol, they may reduce heart disease risk by keeping our platelets in an inactivated state.
Berries have the greatest antioxidant content per serving compared to any other food except spices (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Blackberries, Indian gooseberries, and goji berries rank among the highest in terms of antioxidant levels and offer one of the best nutrition bangs for our buck. Antioxidant-rich foods can affect nitric oxide activity, which helps our arteries relax and dilate normally, and can increase stool weight. Berry antioxidants appear to survive processing, but eating berries in the presence of dairy products may suppress their antioxidant effects. Antioxidant intake may also be associated with lower lymphoma and gastric cancer risks (see also here).
Whole fruits and vegetables, but not antioxidant pills, may be useful in treating seasonal allergies and asthma. Berries may even help slow the progression of our third leading killer COPD (emphysema).
Consumption of blueberries and strawberries has a protective effect on brain function, delaying cognitive decline by as much as 2.5 years and improving sleep quality due to their melatonin content. Blueberries also have been shown to improve memory.
Other remarkable effects include enhanced athletic recovery (see also here), preventing Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and GERD acid reflux heartburn, and relief from visual fatigue. Cranberries in particular may reduce dental plaque formation and prevent recurring bladder infections. Açai berries may promote immune function and relieve arthritic pain.
Organic berries appear preferable. And the more berries we eat, the more benefit you derive. Indian gooseberries may be effective in treating diabetes, cancer cell growth and invasion, but avoid Ayurvedic preparations such as triphala, because of heavy metal contamination. Rosehips (the berry of the rose plant) have been found to reduce osteoarthritis pain.
Berries do not create an insulin spike even though they contain a lot of fructose, and fructose does not have the same harmful effects as high fructose corn syrup or table sugar. So remember to include berries in your diet–they are so very healthy and economical.
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