Summer is right around the corner, and that means berries – some of nature’s most powerful disease-fighting and performance-boosting foods – will be at their peak season. Here are five reasons why you need to be including berries into your diet on a daily basis, to both prolong your healthy life and and to get you back in the gym more quickly.
- They’re overall nutritional powerhouses.
One of the main keys to healthy eating is focusing on nutritional density, and berries are the most nutritionally-dense fruits out there, loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids and antioxidant vitamins. Which berries rank at the top of the antioxidant density chart, among those we can actually buy at the store? Blackberries rank well ahead of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries in terms of antioxidant bang for caloric buck.
- Consuming large amounts of berries might actually prevent and even reverse physical and mental decline.
Blueberries in particular have been shown to prevent motor decline in aged animals and improve memory in older adults. So if you’re feeling occasionally uncoordinated or forgetful, make sure you load up on berries every day (you may want to put up a sign on your refrigerator at least in the beginning to help you remember though!).
- They have powerful heart-protective properties.
In a 2011 study, consuming just one serving of blueberries a week decreased the risk of hypertension by 10%, and findings in the Nurses’ Health Study published in 2013 suggested that women eating three or more servings of blueberries or strawberries per week was linked to a 34% reduced risk of heart attack compared to lower intakes of berries. How is this possible? Scientists found that in addition to berry flavonoids ability to combat oxidative stress, they prevent the production of atherosclerotic plaque by decreasing oxidation of LDL and increase antioxidant capacity in the blood. In addition, berries have several anti-inflammatory properties, and higher berry intake is associated with reduced C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a good determinant of overall inflammation in the body.
- They may also help stop cancer right in its tracks.
Blackberries in particular have been shown to inhibit tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels necessary for tumors to transition from a benign state to a malignant one. When when we eat foods containing angiogenesis inhibitors like berries and mushrooms, we prevent those new blood vessels from being formed.
- Berries also confer some serious benefits to athletes.
Ever woken up the day or two after an intense workout and been so sore that it becomes a difficult and painful task to do just about anything, like getting in and out of a chair? That’s what physicians and scientists like to cause delayed onset muscle soreness and they think it’s due to inflammation created by tons of micro-tears in our muscles. Is there anything we can do to reduce the inflammation and pain? Apparently one of the best ways to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness is by consuming loads of berries. A controlled study done on endurance athletes suggested that daily blueberry consumption significantly reduced oxidative stress and inflammation compared to a control group.
So it’s pretty obvious we can benefit from adding a ton of berries to our diets, and the nice thing is that they’re not a difficult food to eat. Here are five easy ways to incorporate berries every day:
- Add berries on top of our morning oatmeal (or add frozen berries to our overnight oatmeal).
- Blend berries (frozen or fresh) into a post-workout or morning smoothie.
- Mix them in with frozen banana in a blender to make a delicious “nice” cream.
- Sprinkle fresh berries on to salads (strawberries happen to work really nicely with a good balsamic dressing).
- Just eat them by themselves. On a hot day, eating frozen berries directly out of the bag is a great option too!
So however you choose to do it, make it a point to eat loads of berries every day!