Superfoods: 11 REASONS WHY BERRIES ARE THE HEALTHIEST FOODS ON EARTH
11 Reasons Why Berries Are Among the Healthiest Foods on Earth
Written by Franziska Spritzler — Updated on April 24, 2019
Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.
They’re delicious, nutritious, and provide a number of impressive health benefits.
Here are 11 good reasons to include berries in your diet.
1. Loaded with antioxidants
Berries contain antioxidants, which help keep free radicals under control.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that are beneficial in small amounts but can damage your cells when their numbers get too high, causing oxidative stress (1Trusted Source).
Berries are a great source of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol. In addition to protecting your cells, these plant compounds may reduce disease risk (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
One study showed that blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates (4).
In fact, several studies have confirmed that the antioxidants in berries may help reduce oxidative stress (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
One study in healthy men found that consuming a single, 10-ounce (300-gram) portion of blueberries helped protect their DNA against free radical damage (8Trusted Source).
In another study in healthy people, eating 17 ounces (500 grams) of strawberry pulp every day for 30 days decreased a pro-oxidant marker by 38% (9Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries are high in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which may protect your cells from free radical damage.
2. May help improve blood sugar and insulin response
Berries may improve your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Test-tube and human studies suggest that they may protect your cells from high blood sugar levels, help increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar and insulin response to high-carb meals (10, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Importantly, these effects appear to occur in both healthy people and those with insulin resistance.
In one study in healthy women, eating 5 ounces (150 grams) of puréed strawberries or mixed berries with bread led to a 24–26% reduction in insulin levels, compared to consuming the bread alone (13Trusted Source).
Moreover, in a six-week study, obese people with insulin resistance who drank a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than those who consumed berry-free smoothies (14Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries may improve blood sugar and insulin response when consumed with high-carb foods or included in smoothies.
3. High in fiber
Berries are a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber. Studies show that consuming soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract, leading to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness.
This may decrease your calorie intake and make weight management easier (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
What’s more, fiber helps reduce the number of calories you absorb from mixed meals. One study found that doubling your fiber intake could make you absorb up to 130 fewer calories per day (17Trusted Source).
In addition, the high fiber content of berries means that they’re low in digestible or net carbs, which are calculated by subtracting fiber from total carbs.
Here are the carb and fiber counts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of berries (18, 19, 20, 21):
- Raspberries: 11.9 grams of carbs, 6.5 of which are fiber
- Blackberries: 10.2 grams of carbs, 5.3 of which are fiber
- Strawberries: 7.7 grams of carbs, 2.0 of which are fiber
- Blueberries: 14.5 grams of carbs, 2.4 of which are fiber
Note that a typical serving size for berries is 1 cup, which converts to about 4.4–5.3 ounces (125–150 grams) depending on the type.
Because of their low net carb content, berries are a low-carb-friendly food.
SUMMARY Berries contain fiber, which may increase feelings of fullness, as well as reduce appetite and the number of calories your body absorbs from mixed meals.
4. Provide many nutrients
Berries are low in calories and extremely nutritious. In addition to being high in antioxidants, they also contain several vitamins and minerals.
Berries, especially strawberries, are high in vitamin C. In fact, 1 cup (150 grams) of strawberries provides a whopping 150% of the RDI for vitamin C (20).
With the exception of vitamin C, all berries are fairly similar in terms of their vitamin and mineral content.
Below is the nutrition content of a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of blackberries (19):
- Calories: 43
- Vitamin C: 35% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Manganese: 32% of the RDI
- Vitamin K1: 25% of the RDI
- Copper: 8% of the RDI
- Folate: 6% of the RDI
The calorie count for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of berries ranges from 32 for strawberries to 57 for blueberries, making berries some of the lowest-calorie fruits around (20, 21).
SUMMARY Berries are low in calories yet rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and manganese.
5. Help fight inflammation
Berries have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Inflammation is your body’s defense against infection or injury.
However, modern lifestyles often lead to excessive, long-term inflammation due to increased stress, inadequate physical activity, and unhealthy food choices.
This type of chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
Studies suggest that the antioxidants in berries may help lower inflammatory markers (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
In one study in overweight people, those drinking a strawberry beverage with a high-carb, high-fat meal noticed a more significant decrease in certain inflammatory markers than the control group (28Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries may help reduce inflammation and decrease your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
6. May help lower cholesterol levels
Berries are a heart-healthy food.
Black raspberries and strawberries have been shown to help lower cholesterol in people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
In an 8-week study, adults with metabolic syndrome who consumed a beverage made from freeze-dried strawberries daily experienced an 11% drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol (31Trusted Source).
What’s more, berries may help prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged, which is believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source).
In a controlled study in obese people, those eating 1.5 ounces (50 grams) of freeze-dried blueberries for 8 weeks noticed a 28% reduction in their oxidized LDL levels (37Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and help protect it from becoming oxidized, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
7. May be good for your skin
Berries may help reduce skin wrinkling, as their antioxidants help control free radicals, one of the leading causes of skin damage that contributes to aging (38Trusted Source).
Though research is limited, ellagic acid appears responsible for some of the skin-related benefits of berries.
Test-tube and animal studies suggest that this antioxidant may protect skin by blocking the production of enzymes that break down collagen in sun-damaged skin (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).
Collagen is a protein that is part of your skin’s structure. It allows your skin to stretch and remain firm. When collagen is damaged, your skin may sag and develop wrinkles.
In one study, applying ellagic acid to the skin of hairless mice exposed to ultraviolet light for eight weeks decreased inflammation and helped protect collagen from damage (41Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries contain the antioxidant ellagic acid, which may help decrease wrinkling and other signs of skin aging related to sun exposure.
8. May help protect against cancer
Several antioxidants in berries, including anthocyanins, ellagic acid, and resveratrol, may reduce cancer risk (42Trusted Source, 43, 44Trusted Source).
Specifically, animal and human studies suggest that berries may protect against cancer of the esophagus, mouth, breast, and colon (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
In a study in 20 people with colon cancer, eating 2 ounces (60 grams) of freeze-dried raspberries for 1–9 weeks improved tumor markers in some participants, though not all (49Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study found that all types of strawberries had strong, protective effects on liver cancer cells, regardless of whether they were high or low in antioxidants (50Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries have been shown to reduce markers associated with tumor growth in animals and people with several types of cancer.
9. Can be enjoyed on nearly all types of diets
Berries can be included in many kinds of diets.
Though people on low-carb and ketogenic diets often avoid fruit, you can usually enjoy berries in moderation.
For example, a half-cup serving of blackberries (70 grams) or raspberries (60 grams) contains less than 4 grams of digestible carbs (18, 19).
Liberal amounts of berries can be incorporated into paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
For people who want to lose weight, the few calories in berries make them ideal to include in meals, snacks, or desserts.
Organic and wild berries are now widely available in many parts of the world. When they’re not in season, frozen berries can be purchased and thawed as needed.
The only people who need to avoid berries are those who require a low-fiber diet for certain digestive disorders, as well as individuals who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are most common.
SUMMARY Berries can be enjoyed on most diets, as they’re low in calories and carbs and widely available fresh or frozen.
10. May help keep your arteries healthy
In addition to lowering cholesterol, berries provide other benefits for heart health, including improving the function of your arteries.
The cells that line your blood vessels are called endothelial cells. They help control blood pressure, keep blood from clotting, and perform other important functions.
Excessive inflammation can damage these cells, inhibiting proper function. This is referred to as endothelial dysfunction, a major risk factor for heart disease (51Trusted Source).
Berries have been found to improve endothelial function in studies in healthy adults, individuals with metabolic syndrome, and people who smoke (29Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source).
In a controlled study in 44 people with metabolic syndrome, those consuming a daily blueberry smoothie showed significant improvements in endothelial function, compared to the control group (56Trusted Source).
Though fresh berries are considered healthiest, berries in processed form may still provide some heart-healthy benefits. Baked berry products are considered processed, whereas freeze-dried berries are not.
One study found that although baking blueberries reduced their anthocyanin content, total antioxidant concentrations remained the same. Arterial function improved similarly in people who consumed baked or freeze-dried berries (57Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Berries have been found to improve arterial function in several studies in healthy people, those with metabolic syndrome, and people who smoke.
11. Delicious alone or in healthy recipes
Berries are undeniably delicious. They make a wonderful snack or dessert, whether you use one type or a mix of two or more.
Though they’re naturally sweet and require no additional sweetener, adding a bit of heavy or whipped cream can transform them into a more elegant dessert.
For breakfast, try berries topped with either plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or ricotta cheese, along with some chopped nuts.
Another way to include berries in your diet is as part of a salad.
To discover the nearly endless versatility of berries, browse the internet for healthy recipes.
SUMMARY Berries are delicious when served alone, with cream, or in healthy recipes.
The bottom line
Berries taste great, are highly nutritious, and provide many health benefits, including for your heart and skin.
By including them in your diet on a regular basis, you can improve your overall health in a very enjoyable way.
Berries are small, soft, round fruit of various colors — mainly blue, red, or purple.
The 8 Healthiest Berries You Can Eat
They are sweet or sour in taste and often used in preserves, jams, and desserts.
Berries tend to have a good nutritional profile. They’re typically high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant polyphenols.
As a result, incorporating berries into your diet may help prevent and reduce symptoms of many chronic diseases.
Here are 8 of the healthiest berries you can eat.
Blueberries are popular berries that serve as a great source of vitamin K.
One cup (148 grams) of blueberries provides the following nutrients (1Trusted Source):
C: 16% of the DV
K: 24% of the DV
22% of the DV
Blueberries also contain antioxidant polyphenols called anthocyanins (2Trusted Source).
Anthocyanins from blueberries may reduce oxidative stress, thus lowering the risk of heart disease in both healthy people and those at high risk for the disease (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
In addition, blueberries may improve other aspects of heart health by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of heart attack, and enhancing the function of arteries (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Blueberries may lower the risk of diabetes as well. Studies have shown that blueberries or bioactive blueberry compounds can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26% (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
A large observational study has shown that people who eat blueberries also have slower rates of cognitive decline, meaning their brain remains healthier as they age (12Trusted Source).
However, more research is needed to determine the exact role that blueberries play in brain health.
good amounts of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidant anthocyanins. Eating
blueberries may help reduce risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
Raspberries are often used in desserts and serve as a very good source of fiber.
One cup (123 grams) of raspberries provides (13Trusted Source):
C: 36% of the DV
K: 8% of the DV
36% of the DV
Raspberries also contain antioxidant polyphenols called ellagitannins, which can help reduce oxidative stress (14Trusted Source).
One study showed that when cyclists consumed a drink containing raspberries and other berries, oxidative stress caused by exercise decreased significantly (15Trusted Source).
The most commonly consumed raspberries are the American red or European red varieties. However, there are many different types of raspberries, and black raspberries have been shown to have a number of health benefits, too.
Black raspberries may be especially good for heart health. Studies have proven that black raspberries can reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
Other studies have shown that black raspberries may reduce inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome (19Trusted Source).
However, these studies were very small. More research is needed to confirm the benefits of black raspberries.
Raspberries are full of
fiber and antioxidant polyphenols. Black raspberries, in particular, may
benefit heart health.
3. Goji berries
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are native to China and used in traditional medicine. They have recently become very popular in the Western world.
One ounce (28 grams) of dried goji berries provides (20Trusted Source):
C: 15% of the DV
A: 42% of the DV
11% of the DV
Goji berries also contain high levels of vitamin A and zeaxanthin, both of which are important for eye health.
One study of 150 elderly people found that eating 14 grams of a proprietary milk-based formulation of goji berry per day reduced the decline in eye health due to aging. This study, along with a second similar study, showed that eating goji berries could raise blood zeaxanthin levels (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
Like many other berries, goji berries contain antioxidant polyphenols. One study found that drinking goji berry juice for 30 days increased blood antioxidant levels of healthy, older Chinese people (23Trusted Source).
Another study found that drinking goji berry juice for 2 weeks increased metabolism and reduced waist size in overweight people (24Trusted Source).
Summary Goji berries are
particularly rich in nutrients that contribute to eye health. They also contain
Strawberries are one of the most commonly consumed berries in the world and also one of the best sources of vitamin C.
One cup (144 grams) of whole strawberries provides (25Trusted Source):
C: 97% of the DV
24% of the DV
Strawberries are good for heart health. In fact, a study of over 93,000 women found that those who ate more than 3 portions of strawberries and blueberries per week had over a 30% lower risk of heart attack (26Trusted Source).
Other studies have shown that strawberries may reduce a number of risk factors for heart disease including blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and oxidative stress (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
Strawberries can also reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory chemicals in the blood, such as IL-1β, IL-6, and C-reactive protein (CRP) (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).
Moreover, strawberries may help control blood sugar levels, which is important for preventing diabetes (33Trusted Source).
In fact, a study of over 200,000 people found that eating strawberries could reduce type 2 diabetes risk by as much as 18% (34Trusted Source).
Finally, another study showed that eating 2 ounces (60 grams) per day of freeze-dried strawberry powder reduced oxidative stress and inflammatory chemicals in people at high risk of developing esophageal cancer (35Trusted Source).
Strawberries are an
excellent source of vitamin C. They are proven to reduce risk factors for heart
disease and help control blood sugar.
Bilberries are very similar to blueberries, and the two are often confused. Bilberries are native to Europe, whereas blueberries are native to North America.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of bilberries provide (36):
C: 16% of the DV
E: 12% of the DV
Many scientific studies have shown that bilberries are effective at reducing inflammation.
A couple of studies have shown that eating bilberries or drinking bilberry juice can reduce inflammation in people at risk of heart disease or metabolic syndrome (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
Another study of 110 women found that eating bilberries for around 1 month reduced the levels of endothelial markers that are implicated in the development of heart disease. Bilberries also reduced waist circumference by 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) and weight by 0.4 pounds (0.2 kgs) (39Trusted Source).
A separate study found that eating a diet rich in bilberries, whole grains, and fish reduced blood sugar in people with high blood sugar (40Trusted Source).
Bilberries may also increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
Bilberries are similar
to blueberries and are effective at reducing inflammation. They may also help
reduce weight and blood cholesterol.
6. Acai berries
Acai berries grow on acai palm trees native to the Brazilian Amazon region.
They have become popular health food supplements because of their high antioxidant content.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of acai berry puree provides (43Trusted Source):
Keep in mind that acai berries are often consumed dried or freeze-dried, which can affect the nutritional content.
Acai berries are one of the best sources of antioxidant polyphenols and may contain as much as 10 times more antioxidants than blueberries (44Trusted Source).
When consumed as a juice or pulp, acai berries can increase blood antioxidant levels and reduce chemicals involved in oxidative stress (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
Additionally, acai berry pulp has been shown to reduce blood sugar, insulin, and blood cholesterol levels in overweight adults who consumed 200 grams per day for 1 month (47Trusted Source).
These effects have also been shown in athletes. Drinking 3 ounces (100 ml) of an acai juice blend for 6 weeks reduced blood cholesterol and reduced oxidative stress after exercise, which may speed up recovery from muscle damage (48Trusted Source).
The antioxidants in acai may also help reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. A study of people with osteoarthritis found that drinking 4 ounces (120 ml) of acai juice per day for 12 weeks significantly reduced pain and improved daily living (49Trusted Source).
SummaryAcai berries contain
high amounts of antioxidants, which may help reduce blood cholesterol,
oxidative stress, and even reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Cranberries are an extremely healthy fruit with a sour taste.
They are rarely eaten raw. Instead, they are commonly consumed as juice.
1 cup (110 grams) of raw cranberries provides (50):
C: 16% of the DV
12% of the DV
Like other berries, cranberries contain antioxidant polyphenols. However, most of these antioxidants are in the skin of the cranberry. Therefore, cranberry juice doesn’t contain as many polyphenols (51Trusted Source).
The best-known health benefit of cranberries is their ability to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Certain chemicals in cranberries prevent the bacteria E. coli from sticking to the wall of the bladder or urinary tract, therefore reducing the risk of infection (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source).
A number of studies have shown that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements can reduce the risk of UTIs (54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source).
Cranberry juice may reduce the risk of other infections as well.
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and cancer. A number of studies have shown that cranberry juice can prevent H. pylori from attaching to the stomach wall and thus prevent infection (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
Cranberry juice has also shown various benefits for heart health. Many studies have found that drinking cranberry juice can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and “stiffness” of arteries (60Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source, 62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source).
However, it’s best to avoid varieties of cranberry juice with lots of added sugar.
cranberry juice can reduce the risk of urinary tract and stomach infections and
may benefit heart health. However, it’s best to avoid juices with lots of added
Grapes are widely consumed either as whole, raw fruit or as juice, wine, raisins, or vinegar.
One cup (151 grams) of whole, raw grapes provides (64Trusted Source):
C: 5% of the DV
K: 18% of the DV
The skin and seeds of grapes are an excellent source of antioxidant polyphenols. A number of studies have shown that grape seed polyphenol extracts can lower both blood pressure and heart rate (65Trusted Source, 66Trusted Source).
However, many of these studies were small. Other studies assert that the effect of polyphenols on blood pressure remains unclear (67Trusted Source).
A large observational study found that eating grapes or raisins 3 times per week was associated with a 12% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes (68Trusted Source).
Another study found that eating 17 ounces (500 grams) of grapes per day for 8 weeks reduced blood cholesterol and oxidative stress in people with high cholesterol (69Trusted Source).
Finally, grape juice may even benefit brain health. A small study of 25 women found that drinking 12 ounces (355 ml) of Concord grape juice every day for 12 weeks significantly improved memory and driving performance (70Trusted Source).
Summary Grapes, particularly
the seeds and skin, are full of antioxidants. They may help reduce blood
cholesterol and type 2 diabetes risk while also benefiting brain health.
The bottom line
Berries are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, as they’re low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Many berries have proven benefits for heart health. These include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while reducing oxidative stress.
They may also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by acting as great alternatives to sugary snacks.
Try to eat a few portions of berries a week and sample different types. They make a great snack or healthy breakfast topping.
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