Mediterranean Diet 101

Blackberries Health Benefits

Usually it’s seen that all foods that are good for health are not very delicious. However, it’s just the opposite about blackberries. These tiny shiny clusters of black pearls are juicy, yummy and healthy as well.

Blackberries rank high on the most antioxidant-rich foods on the ORAC score. These berries contain four important nutrients as much as a third of their daily recommended value. They have also been found to treat almost everything from aging skin to cancers.

There are around 7 species of blackberries in the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family.

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Nutritional Profile of Blackberries

A cup of blackberries (15-16 berries) contains around:

- Calories: 62

- Carbohydrates: 14.7gm

- Protein: 2gm

- Fat: 0.7gm

- Fiber: 7.6gm

- Vitamin A: 308 IU (6% DV)

- Niacin: 0.9mg (5% DV)

- Folate: 36 micrograms (9% DV)

- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): 0.4mg (4% DV)

- Vitamin C: 30.2mg (50% DV)

- Vitamin E: 1.7mg (8% DV)

- Vitamin K: 28.5 micrograms (36% DV)

- Copper: 0.2mg (12% DV)

- Manganese: 0.9mg (47% DV)

- Potassium: 233mg (7% DV)

- Magnesium: 28.8mg (7% DV)

- Iron: 0.9mg (5% DV)

- Calcium: 41.8mg (4% DV)

- Phosphorus: 31.7mg (3% DV)

- Zinc: 0.8mg (5% DV)

Health Benefits of Blackberries

Improves Brain Function

Since they are rich in nutrients, blackberries have been found to be a major contributor to the health of brain. It has been found in studies that blackberries can significantly increase brain performance, and they are therefore top brain foods. Reportedly, there is a remarkable improvement in short-term memory due to a consistent diet containing blackberries.

Manganese present in high amounts in blackberries is important for brain functioning. A major proportion of manganese in human body occurs in the synapses of brain. Due to the importance of manganese transmission in the brain, manganese deficiency is associated to brain problems like epilepsy. Right amount of manganese should be present in one’s diet so as to keep synapses working appropriately.

Blackberries comprise of polyphenols, a type of antioxidants. It’s also believed that blackberries and compounds extracted from them can stop degeneration of brain cells. This can be attributed to the heightened concentration of polyphenols in the blood due to blackberry consumption. An interesting finding that should be noted here is that, blackberries of commercial varieties had no effect of any kind, whereas wild-grown blackberries displayed a remarkable protective ability.

Slows Down or Even Prevents Growth of Cancer

The cancer-fighting properties of blackberries have been one of their most extensively studied qualities. These properties are perhaps due to the rich antioxidant content in blackberries. Especially, polyphenols in blackberries have cancer-fighting qualities. One of the polyphenols, anthocyanin, is found in abundance in blackberries. These compounds are believed to be used primarily by blackberries to stop development of cancer.

An essence of fresh blackberries was found to show tumor-preventive effects in human lung cancer. Anthocyanins also block high levels of stress that result in growth of cancer cells. When it comes to lung cancer, at least one study has demonstrated the effectiveness of a particular anthocyanin present in blackberries known as cyanidin-3-gulcoside on the development of cancerous lung tumors.

Overall, in the first place, blackberries help prevent some of the cell mutation that causes cancer. Although the origin of cancer is intricate and different for every individual, the mutation of healthy cells and DNA is what appears to cause the growth of cancer. Foods rich in anti-oxidants like blackberries help suppress this mutation.

Vitamin K is also supposed to be a component responsible for the anti-cancer qualities of blackberries. One serving of blackberries has more than one third of the daily recommended value of this vitamin which plays an important role in preventing and fighting colon, prostrate, nasal, liver and stomach cancers.

Excellent for Cardiovascular Health

Vitamin K in blackberries is excellent for the health of cardiovascular system. It stops hardening of arteries by taking calcium out of them and preventing the formation of arterial plaque which can give rise to serious conditions.
Healthy intake of vitamin K is also associated to reduced inflammation in cells of blood vessel lining, healthy levels of blood pressure and less chances of heart attack.

Plus, anthocyanins (the polyphenols effective against cancer) in blackberries protect against endothelial dysfunction as well as heart failure. Endothelium is the inner lining of blood vessels and its hardening negatively affects contraction and dilation of blood vessels. This can cause various types of heart disease and is connected to an increased risk of heart attack or failure.

However, blackberries contain a special type of anthocyanin, named cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, which is believed to be a great protector of blood vessels and significantly reducing the development of endothelial dysfunction, and also, slowing down or even stopping the development of the related cardiovascular diseases.

Reduction in Inflammation and Infection, and Improvement in Immunity

Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are major causes of several diseases. Since blackberries are loaded with antioxidants, they should form an essential part of one’s diet to allow body to fight these two.

Process of inflammation is body’s natural defense mechanism against harmful cells. The Western diet contains ingredients that encourage chronic, disease-causing inflammation. Blackberries naturally reduce inflammation.

A study found a massive 88% reduction in stomach ulcers of participants because of the diminished inflammation of the mucosal lining of stomach, and also a reduction in the oxidative stress that also partly contributed to the ulcers when given ellagitannins (a class of antioxidant) extracted from blackberries.

Oxidative damage occurs when the uncharged molecules i.e. free radicals that cause aging and immune system dysfunction are formed in excessive amount due to consumption of too many processed foods, overly exposure to the sun’s UV rays or some medications. One can fight oxidative stress by consuming antioxidants like those occurring in blackberries and other berries, which slow down the commencement or development of diseases and premature aging.

Blackberries also have antibacterial properties, with which they protect the body from diseases. The effects of oral infections are counteracted by these properties by targeting infected cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. This makes blackberries a powerful remedy to treat infections.

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Improves Menstrual Health

If women are undergoing pain of PMS, adding blackberries to their diet is a great solution. Vitamin K in blackberries is helpful in regulating hormones and thereby reducing cramping pains. Vitamin K being a blood-clotting agent, it can even help reduce excessive bleeding.

Consuming foods rich in manganese and calcium is another effective solution for painful PMS and other physical and mental symptoms. Blackberries being rich in both these minerals, they should be consumed to get rid of these conditions.

Improves Digestive Health

High fiber content in blackberries helps in digestion and may also reduce cholesterol levels to fight cardiovascular disease. There are around 8gm of fiber in a cup of blackberries which is 32% and 21% of the daily fiber requirements for women and men respectively. Even vitamin A in blackberries supports digestion by helping to form healthy mucous membranes, e.g. the lining of tissue inside mouth.

Improves Bone Health

Calcium and magnesium found in blackberries are helpful for bone health. Calcium strengthens bones and magnesium helps in the absorption of calcium and potassium in the body, whereas phosphorus, which also is present in blackberries, helps in regulating calcium and building strong bones, and also helps in proper cellular functioning.

Improves Vision

Blackberries can protect one’s eyes due to their vitamin C content which prevents weakening of vision and lutein which protects eyes from harmful UV rays and damage caused by oxidative stress. The antioxidant content in blackberries also delays age-related macular degeneration as well as cataract.

Improves Oral Health

A study by Oregon State University observes that blackberries contain rutin, gallic acid and ellagic acid, a natural phenol antioxidant having anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. Researchers from the University of North Carolina as well as the University of Kentucky conducted a study in 2012 on 10 different types of bacteria and found that blackberry can kill pathogens and virus that cause periodontal infections.

Improves Skin Health

Since blackberries contain a high amount and diversity of antioxidants, it’s obviously beneficial for skin health too. Through these antioxidant properties, blackberry extract tends to protect the skin from UVB damage.

It also protects the keratinocytes i.e. the cells that produce a protective layer on the epidermis and then keep reproducing below the outer skin layer to constantly replenish the epidermis, in the skin from UV damage. Once again the credit goes to the anthocyanins.

Vitamin C in blackberries is also beneficial for skin because it supports collagen production, reduces the risk of dry skin and also prevents premature skin aging.

However, skin health is not limited to preventing wrinkles. Nutrients in blackberries also have anti-viral effect on infections of skin, especially the herpes virus that causes cold sores.

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Risk Factors

Although tannins in blackberry fruits are in very small quantities and don’t have bad effects if not consumed too much, they are present in much higher quantities in leaves and roots of the plant, which many people use to make tea. Some evidence shows that a large amount of tannins, like those in these teas, can possibly increase the size of tumors in cancer patients. People with a history of cancer should stay away from teas made from blackberry roots or leaves.

It’s also recommended to reduce blackberry intake if there is a tendency of kidney stones because the oxalates occurring in blackberries and many other fruits can increase the formation of these stones.

Some people may have a mild allergy of blackberries which results in itching or swelling on hands, lips or mouth upon eating blackberries. If this happens, the fruit should be immediately discontinued.

Long Story Short: Blackberries should be part of any healthy and well balanced diet and should be consumed both fresh and processed.

However, like everything in life and especially in nutrition, moderation and balance is the key - there is no point in eating 2-3 pounds of blackberries a day and then not eating them for months.

So, do yourself a favor and enjoy these refreshing and tasty berries regularly, but in moderation.

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