It’s a habit of mine and I can’t help it – I’ve always loved going blackberrying in September. I go out every year to the countryside near my home and make my fingers black with picking them, usually getting a few big scratches in the process (why is it that the best fruits always seem high up?). It’s great to know that my early autumnal ritual is giving me health benefits too. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this unpretentious woodland fruit, aside from the fact that they’re free to anyone who wants to go out and pick them!
- Blackberries help your brain. A study published in June 2009 in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience indicated that rats fed blackberries had a significantly better short term memory performance than the control group. With cognitive decline in older adults reaching epidemic proportions, we should all be eating more berries, which are rich in polyphenols; notably anthocyanins, which have a high antioxidant activity.
- Blood sugar regulation can be modified with berry consumption. Type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions, and solutions are urgently being sought. Blackberries and other low glycaemic berries reduce the glucose response, as demonstrated by a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, November 2009. This is great news because diets with a high glucose (glycaemic) response are associated with increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Blackberries could improve your sex life! According to a study published in the Journal of Urology, July 2005, oxidative stress is considered to be an important contributor to erectile dysfunction. With their high antioxidant levels, blackberries, and berries in general, are considered to have a vital role to play in the reversal of this distressing condition.
- Phenolic compounds present in blackberries have been shown to inhibit the activity of harmful bacteria in the human gut. The berry phenolics are most active against Salmonella and Staphylococcal bacteria. These findings were reported in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 2005.
- Blackberries are very high in antioxidants. Of 25 fruits commonly consumed in the USA, pomegranate and dark berries (blackberry, blueberry and raspberry) have the highest cellular antioxidant activity, with bananas having the lowest. Since people with the highest level of blood and tissue antioxidants have the lowest incidence of degenerative diseases, including cancer, it makes sense to eat low glycaemic dark berries to ensure we receive adequate protection against harmful, and ever-increasing, free radical damage.
- Berry extracts and their phytonutrients are essential in the fight against cancer. Research indicates that during several stages in the cancer process, the anthocyanins present in blackberries and other dark berries are potent anticarcinogens. This has been demonstrated both in tissue cultures and in live (animal) studies. Other studies, such as that published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2007, indicate that berries contain other nutrients aside from anthocyanins which are responsible for this anticancer activity, demonstrating yet again the importance of eating whole food, not taking isolated extracts.
So there you have it – 6 very good reasons to get black fingers this autumn, and embrace those bramble scratches!
P.S. Blueberries also contain many of the same antioxidants that make blackberries so healthy. They’re great for your heart and, somewhat surprisingly, your bones too. Find out more via www.loveyourbones.info.