Berries: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Berries are one of the most versatile little foods on the planet. You can gather them in the wild, grow them in your backyard, or buy them at the grocery store. There are dozens of varieties of berries out there, from the ever-popular strawberry to the whimsically named gooseberry.

Many berries are classified as “superfoods,” and for good reason. They pack a lot of nutritional power into a tiny package. Berries are also fun for adults and kids to eat.

Health Benefits

Berries of all kinds are rich in antioxidants, which can prevent cell damage and may reduce the risk of certain diseases.  The antioxidants found in berries are responsible for many of their health-boosting properties.

Blood Sugar Control

If your blood sugar is too high for a long time, it can harm your heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes, and more. Studies have shown that eating berries can help your body control blood sugar levels and avoid dangerous blood sugar spikes.

One of the ways that berries help control blood sugar is by helping your body respond better to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar by helping your cells use the glucose in your blood. Eating berries can help your body be more responsive to insulin, so less sugar builds up in your blood.

Cancer Prevention

Berries contain many different types of antioxidants. Studies have shown that antioxidants can help reduce cell damage that may cause cancer.

Eye Health

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in people over age 55. A large-scale study showed that antioxidants can reduce the risk of developing AMD. Berries are rich in antioxidants, so eating plenty of them may help keep your eyes healthier for longer.

Antioxidants may also help prevent and treat cataracts, which develop when protein builds up in the lens at the front of your eye. Studies show that consuming high levels of certain antioxidants may reduce the risk of cataracts. Antioxidants may also help slow the growth of existing cataracts and preserve eyesight for longer. 

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Heart Health

Berries are high in fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol. Soluble fiber “catches” harmful cholesterol as it passes through your intestines, carrying it out as waste. Research shows that this may reduce harmful cholesterol in your blood and help protect your heart

The antioxidants in berries may also help to reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Weight Management

Eating plenty of fiber helps slow down digestion and makes you feel fuller for longer. According to one study, people who eat extra fiber take in fewer calories and may lose more weight.

Nutrition

There are many different kinds of berries, and nutrition content can vary from one kind to the next.

Nutrients per Serving

A half-cup serving of blueberries contains:

A half-cup serving of blackberries has a slightly different nutritional content:

  • Calories: 31
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams 
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Vitamin C: 21 milligrams

Portion Size

The recommended serving size of most berries is ½ cup. That's the same whether you're eating smaller berries like blueberries or larger ones like strawberries.  

How to Prepare Berries

Berries are delicious fresh or cooked into some of your favorite recipes. You may lose a slight amount of vitamin C if you cook berries, but the effect is minimal.

Here are some ways you can get more berries in your diet:

  • Sprinkle berries over your oatmeal or cereal in the morning.
  • Eat berries by themselves as a healthy snack.
  • Bake a strawberry or blueberry pie.
  • Bake up a berry cobbler.
  • Drop some berries into lemonade for a delicious summer drink.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 20, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis.” 

American Optometric Association, “Antioxidants & Age-Related Eye Disease.”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Berries modify the postprandial plasma glucose response to sucrose in healthy subjects.”

British Journal of Nutrition: “Postprandial glucose, insulin and glucagon-like peptide 1 responses to sucrose ingested with berries in healthy subjects.”

Diseases: “Antioxidants and Cardiovascular Risk Factors.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Food Science and Biotechnology: “Effect of different cooking methods on the content of vitamins and true retention in selected vegetables.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Berries: anti-inflammatory effects in humans.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Berries reduce postprandial insulin responses to wheat and rye breads in healthy women.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Dietary Fiber Decreases the Metabolizable Energy Content and Nutrient Digestibility of Mixed Diets Fed to Humans.” 

National Cancer Institute: “Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Dietary fiber and weight regulation.” 

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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