They may be small but berries are truly a miracle of nature. Tiny little flavour bombs that are packed with vitamins, nutrients and other things that can help prevent disease, fight fat and reverse the effects of ageing. How? Check this out.
What makes berries (particularly strawberries and blueberries) and other red and blue fruits and vegetables so special are high concentrations of naturally occurring anthocanin, a phytochemical that researchers have discovered may help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. In fact, recent studies have discovered that women who ate more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries a week had a 34% lower risk of heart attacks, and experienced a slower mental decline.
Another bonus to these pint-sized treats, their fibre and liquid content help give that sense of fullness you might be looking for, making them a great addition to any weight loss meal plan.
Let's look at a few...
Seriously, what can't goji berries do? These little red berries, which you'll usually find in their dried form, have been used across Asia for centuries to promote longevity, but their list of benefits is much longer. In one tablespoon they've got about a gram of protein, essential amino acids, and about 36% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin A – all that for only 18 calories!
If that's not enough, they've also been proven to increase energy levels and athletic performance, sleep quality, focus, mental acuity, reduce stress... Need we go on? Best of all, they have even been seen to protect our delicate skin from the elements, with one study showing that consuming goji berry juice could reduce the inflammatory reaction of skin when it starts to get sunburned!
Blackberries, brambleberries, thimbleberries or lawers – whatever they go by, these are amazing for when you're craving something sweet and tart at the same time. Not only are they fun to eat (that texture... woah!) but they're packed with flavinoids and vitamin C, and are only 62 calories a cup. And that beautiful dark blue colour means they have the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits, which also means these berries are great for lowering the risk of a number of cancers.
And who needs plastic surgery when you've got blackberries? Did you know they promote the healthy tightening of tissue? They have also been shown to improve alertness, reduce intestinal inflammation, alleviate hemorrhoids, and sooth diarrhoea.
Blackberries also have topical benefits – the leaves have been used to treat mild inflammation of the gums and in therapeutic drinks, and the astringent tannins are great for oral hygiene when used as a gargle or mouthwash.
By now, everyone has heard of acai berries, or the “Beauty Berry”, as they're known in Brazil, where they have also been using the dark purple berries for centuries for their healing properties. The combination of antioxidants, amino acids and omega fatty acids make this little guy a powerhouse in its own right, helping to slow the ageing process by boosting immune and metabolic function, and removing destructive free radicals from our bodies (it's “oxygen radical absorbance capacity”, or ORAC, is over 3,500 – hundreds of times higher than your average fruit!).
Packing more protein than an egg, they've also been shown to improve the look and texture of hair, skin, and nails.
Fresh or frozen, there are tons of ways to pack these modern miracles into your diet. Dried, they make a great addition to salads. Frozen berries last ages and are great in smoothies. A beautiful berry tart will compliment any dinner. Or simply fill a bowl and enjoy them au natural (you could always dust with sugar if you find them too tart)!