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Health | Picking your own for health benefits

Recently when we have been on our cycles around the countryside, all you can see is the early ripening of berries on the bushes.


One of my favourite things to do with the children this time of year is go blackberry picking, whilst discussing what we are going to make with them. Jam, crumble, pies, freeze them, add them to fresh juice and smoothies, or simply eat them for a snack? I love that a delicious food, such a blackberries has such incredible health benefits too.


The blackberry lands itself high on the most antioxidant-rich foods list, as well as containing so many nutrients, this delicate, but delicious berry contains at least a third of the daily recommended value for important nutrients and has been found to fight everything from premature skin aging to aggressive cancers. It has a rich history and is readily available this time of year.


So, what is so special about the blackberry?


One of the most widely researched health benefits of blackberries is their ability to work as a cancer fighting food. The reason for this is most likely due to the rich antioxidants and polyphenols, a class of antioxidants known for their cancer-fighting abilities. Specifically, anthocyanin (a particular polyphenol) is found in high concentrations in this fruit.


The high levels of oxidative stress that cause the proliferation (growth) of cancer cells are blocked by the anthocyanins found in blackberries. In regard to lung cancer, there has been at least one study demonstrating the effectiveness of cyanidin-3-glucoside, a specific anthocyanin found in blackberries, on the growth of cancerous lung tumours.


In general, blackberries are known to help prevent some of the cell mutation that leads to cancer in the first place. While the cause of cancer is complex and different for every person, the mutation of DNA and healthy cells in particular is what seems to lead to the growth of this disease, so eating antioxidant-rich foods, such as blackberries, helps suppress this mutation.


Vitamin K may also be a factor in the anti-cancer properties of blackberries. One serving of blackberries has over a third of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, which plays a part in helping prevent and fight prostate, colon, stomach, nasal, oral and liver cancers.


Also, the incredible nutrient load of blackberries makes them a remarkable candidate for peak mental health. Preliminary studies focused on motor skills and short-term memory retention find that blackberries have great potential in increasing brain performance, like many other berries high in antioxidants, which is why berries are among some of the top brain foods. Short-term memory seems most drastically improved by a consistent diet of blackberries, according to certain reports.


Blackberries are very high in manganese that is one nutrient vital to brain functioning. A notable percentage of manganese in your body is found in the synapses of your brain. Because of the importance of manganese transmission in the brain, a manganese deficiency is linked to brain conditions like epilepsy. It’s crucial to get the proper amount of manganese in your diet in order to keep your synapses firing correctly.


It also seems that blackberries and extracted compounds from them have the ability to protect brain cells from degeneration. Once again, this is attributed to increased polyphenol concentration in the blood. Interestingly, one particular study on this function of blackberries noted that commercial varieties of blackberries had no effect whatsoever, while wild-grown berries showed significant protective ability.


Because of the antioxidants touted as one of the major health benefits of blackberries, this should be one of the main foods you consume regularly to protect your body from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation responsible for a massive number of diseases. It is thought, that inflammation is the root of all disease, and the natural process of inflammation is part of the body’s defence against harmful cells, but the western diet is especially prone to encouraging chronic, disease-causing inflammation. Blackberries naturally cause a reduction in inflammation and allow your body’s processes to happen, as they should, rather than on overdrive.


An example of the blackberry’s ability to fight inflammation is in its protection against stomach ulcers, due to the reduced inflammation of the mucosal lining of the stomach, as well as a drop in the oxidative stress that was also partially responsible for the ulcers.


Whole, healthy foods like blackberries fight inflammation, but they also help curb the free radical damage caused by oxidative stress within your body. This damage occurs when the uncharged molecules (free radicals) that are responsible for aging and immune system function are overproduced due to exposure to the sun, too many processed foods or medication use.


You can fight oxidative stress with antioxidants like those found in blackberries and other berries (and a ton of other amazing foods), slowing the onset or development of disease and premature aging.


Blackberries also show antibacterial activity, another function by which they protect your body from disease. They can reduce the impact of oral infections by targeting infected cells while leaving other cells untouched, making them a potentially powerful agent to treat infection.


So, what are you waiting for? Get your little container and get picking! This natural food is just what you need to take you into the autumn months!



Posted in Lifestyle.