BERRIES - THE BEST THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES

Almost everybody knows that berries are good for you. But researchers are finding more and more reasons to eat these nutritious powerhouses.

 

Here’s one of the latest juicy details: Berries may lower the risk of erectile dysfunction. Other recent studies show they may play a likely role in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and help with weight loss.

 

However the link to erectile dysfunction is new. In a study of more than 25,000 men, those who ate the greatest quantity of blueberries and citrus fruits were reported to have a nearly 20% lower risk of erectile dysfunction , compared to those who ate the smallest quantities. Researchers can’t prove that eating berries caused the drop in risk, and they say more study is needed.

 

So what makes berries so nutritionally valuable? They have a number of different compounds that are good for you. Some of the most important:

  • Antioxidants - These chemicals, which include vitamins A, C and E, protect cells from damage and possibly from illness. Berries are full with them.

  • Resveratrol - This is found in grapes and some other berries, as well as in red wine and dark chocolate. It may help lower inflammation, prevent clogged arteries, and offer cancer protection. A recent study suggests it may be good for people with Alzheimer’s.

  • Flavonoids - These nutrients give berries their vivid colours and may help protect against cancer, inflammation, and heart disease.

     

Alzheimer’s disease and Resveratrol

Berries boost a process called neurogenesis, or making new neurons which may assist our memories and our ability to learn. They’re also involved in the brain’s "housecleaning" activities. They help clear out toxic proteins that build up in the brain, such as tau and amyloid beta. Too much of these proteins is linked to Alzheimer's disease.

 

High doses of Resveratrol found in berries may reduce the progress of Alzheimer's. It stabilised the build-up of brain plaques tied to the disease in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, according to a study published in late 2015. But it’s still unclear why Resveratrol had this effect, and it’s too soon to tell whether it would provide any reprieve from symptoms of the disease. There’s more ongoing research on this subject.  The Resveratrol used in the study was much more concentrated than what’s available in a supplement. Individuals who participated in the study took greater doses than you could realistically eat or drink if you were obtaining it from its natural sources. The lead researcher estimated that you'd need to drink 1,000 bottles of red wine a day to get a similar dose.  Yet, experts say the study is an important one.

 

In an additional research that was released in early 2016, it was suggested that blueberries, in particular, may be a weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s. In one study, people aged 68 and older who were already having cognitive difficulties seemed sharper after eating freeze-dried blueberry powder, equivalent to a cup of berries, every day for 16 weeks.  In addition to cognitive improvement, they also showed increased brain activity on MRI scans.

Berries and our Body

Flavonoids have also been linked to health bonuses in recent studies. In one, eating strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and other colourful fruits and vegetables rich in these nutrients appeared to contribute to a small amount of weight loss. 

 

Another research showed a link between eating several daily servings of strawberries and lower cholesterol, at least in theory protecting against heart disease and diabetes.

 

A daily serving of dried cranberries, may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. Hence, may help prevent blood sugar spikes and dips.

The Entire Berry

Research into extracts like Resveratrol is only one part of the picture. Scientists are focusing more attention on whole berries, the way people eat them, rather than their individual components because when you take something as a single compound, it’s not the same as taking it in its natural form. 

 

Generally speaking, berries have a higher nutritional value than other fruits. They have fibre, flavonoids, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and some minerals, as well as other important compounds.

 

Keep in mind that no single type of berry offers the full range of health benefits.  Berries all have different colours, which means they have different nutrients, so the best approach is to eat a selection of different varieties to get those different nutrients. 

 

But don’t limit your diet to only berries.  While berries offer many benefits, the key to good nutrition is to eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Flavonoid-rich foods and drinks also include apples, pears and tea and more.