In the battle against chronic disease, specifically heart disease, the antioxidant content of berries is a fantastic weapon.
Researchers in 2008 studied 72 volunteers over an eight week period. The volunteers were divided into a berry group and control group. The berry group was fed 100 grams of whole bilberries, 50 grams of lingonberry-rich nectar, and 100 grams of blackcurrants, strawberries, or raspberry-chokeberry juice every other day. The control group received non-berry “fruit placebos”, such as sugar water and marmalade. After 8 weeks, the berry group had an increase in HDL cholesterol of 5.2%, decreased blood pressure, and improvement platelet function.
Berries are a great source of antioxidants, which prevent cell damage by eliminating free radicals. One visible piece of evidence indicating the powerful antioxidants within berries is their color. Berries are rich in phenolic compounds called anthocyanins, which give berries the deep red and blue colors.
A word of caution! There has been a recent media frenzy over certain berries as “superfoods”. There is currently no scientific proof higher antioxidant levels of certain berries corresponds to improved health benefits that justify the inflated price tags. Some studies on antioxidants have given disappointing and unexpected results. But regardless, even if berries are not a “miracle cure”, they are rich in fiber, vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium and an important part of a heart healthy diet.