This is Why Berries are So Good for You
By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Here’s a little look at why I love anthocyanins (one of the amazing nutrients found in berries)! This is a fun topic for me because as a nutritionist, one of my favorite conversations to have with my clients is regarding the importance of eating, blending and juicing loads of vegetables and some fruits. Yes, of course we all know we should get more of them, but it starts to get interesting when the “why” is explained in more detail. Veggies and fruits are absolutely loaded with so many essential and powerful nutrients that help our bodies function at their healthiest potential—and one group of those amazing nutrients is anthocyanins.
What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are a group of compounds that are a member of the flavonoid family, a larger group of nutrients. In nature, plants use anthocyanins to protect against environmental stressors like ultraviolet light; so like their role in keeping plants healthy, plants, it turns out that anthocyanins do similar things to keep our bodies healthy as well.
Which foods contain anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins can be found in richy-pigmented plant-based foods that are red, blue and purple. Produce rich in anthocyanins include:
- Red cherries
- Red beets
- Red cabbage
- Berries: Acai berries, blueberries, black currants, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
- Blue corn
- Eggplant (the skin in particular)
- Purple asparagus
- Red/purple grapes
Why are they so good for your health?
Anthocyanins may help to keep the body healthy in a number of ways including:
- Anti-inflammation: Anthocyanins contain anti-inflammatory properties that help to prevent internal inflammation, which is the number one cause of many diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
- Heart health: Anthocyanin-rich foods, due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet properties may be able to help prevent inflammation in the blood vessels that lead to heart disease. Research suggests that people who eat anthocyanin-rich foods (about 3 or more servings per week) were less likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, and may also be at a lower risk for having a heart attack.
- Anti-cancer: Anthocyanins also contain antioxidant-properties and act to help clean up and repair damage that happens within our bodies that over time can increase risk for diseases including cancer. Research suggests that anthocyanins may help prevent damage to DNA- which is key to cancer prevention. Research also suggests that cyanidin- one of the anthocyanin compounds found in blackberries, black rice and other berries may help to reduce risk for lung cancer and lymphoma.
- Brain health: Another powerful property of anthocyanins is their important role in brain health. One reason that anthocyanins have been cited for their benefit to brain health is due to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to keep blood vessels healthy; additionally, research suggests that anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich foods have been shown to help prevent age-related declines in brain health and memory.
- Muscle recovery: Anthocyanin-rich foods like cherries have been touted to be beneficial in preventing muscle soreness due to their powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; research suggests that powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help to soothe and repair exercise-induced muscle damage.
Ways to use anthocyanin-rich foods:
Beets, cherries, berries amongst others can be used in so many ways. Including smoothies, juices, healthy desserts, entrees and as a part of your hot breakfast cereal. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use anthocyanin-rich produce.
Crazy for Cranberries Juice
A Very Berry Chocolate Smoothie
Strawberry Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream
Berry Breakfast Quinoa
Butternut Squash & Blueberry Kale Salad