This is Your Body on Berries: The Science of Berry Nutrition
Overall health is on everyone’s minds these days, perhaps more than ever before. And, while most of us have a pretty good sense of which foods are best for our bodies, we don’t always understand why. Knowing the basic scientific processes behind why some choices are better than others–even amongst healthy foods–can help us make even more sound decisions when it comes to what we eat.
Berries are the subject of numerous scientific explorations into a myriad of public health issues including neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), osteoarthritis, obesity, and various cancers. A comprehensive body of research focuses on the bioactive compounds in berries. Bioactive compounds are chemicals found in very small amounts in certain foods. There is growing evidence that some of these chemicals not only promote good overall health, but may be able to help prevent (and someday even help treat) certain diseases.
Berries are rich in bioactive compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols have two general types: flavonoids and phenolic acids. A flavonoid subtype of particular interest found in certain berries (including strawberries) is anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are the natural pigments that produce the red, purple and blue colors you see in certain plants. Anthocyanins have strong antioxidant properties and aid in regulating cellular activity. Essentially, what we already know is that anthocyanins help your body fight off toxins and other harmful molecules. And while your body produces its own antioxidants, adding more of them to your system through the foods you eat helps your body become an even stronger disease-fighting powerhouse.
Studies into the phytonutrients discussed above are only growing in number, and findings are, for the most part, promising. So, next time you enjoy a big bowl of beautiful berries, you’ll know you’re not only giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to function, but the tiny microwarriors it needs to function well.
Sources for this article include: healthline.com; cancer.gov; researchgate.net; verywellhealth.com; 2017 Berry Health Benefits Symposium