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The Power of Berries

Previously, I have spoken about the importance of including fruit as part a healthy well balanced diet.  As part of the discussion, I highlighted some of the new research in relation to berry fruit in particular, which has been proven to prevent heart attacks in women and possibly offer protection against diabetes and even Parkinson’s disease. 

Heart Attack Prevention

The nutrition department at the University of East Anglia released some very interesting information a few months ago.  It found that consuming berry fruit three times per week reduced the chances of young women getting a heart attack by a whopping 32%.   93,000 women aged 25-42 years old were surveyed over 20 years ago and their eating habits were tracked on an ongoing basis every four years since then.   During this 20 year period, 405 heart attacks occurred within the ladies included in the study.  It was found that the specific consumption of berry fruit (not overall fruit and vegetable intakes), were responsible for the prevention of heart attacks in younger women.  Most of the research to date relating to heart health and dietary habits has focussed on older people, so this was one of the first to investigate the links amongst younger individuals.

Three portions per week

A compound called Anthocyanins (an antioxidant) contained in the berries was found to be responsible for protecting the heart and preventing the clots which can lead to a blockage within the cardiovascular system.  These goodies are found in blue-black coloured fruits i.e. blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries, strawberries, grapes and even red wine!  Three portions of berries are needed every week for optimal heart health and one portion counts as 80g weight or 2/3 of a cup.  All of these fruits are currently in season, so there isn’t any reason for not including them as part of the daily diet i.e. with breakfast cereal, as a snack or topped with some natural yogurt.  To help save money when out of season, I recommend purchasing berries in larger quantities during the summer months, direct from local fruit farms or ideally grow your own at home!  Fruit can then be frozen, so it can be conveniently used throughout the year.

Other Health Benefits

The soluble fibre from the skins of berries and other fruit such as apples and pears has been shown to have a balancing effect on blood sugar levels, thus preventing dips or high levels.  It is known that berries have a low Glycaemic Index (GI), meaning they provide a slow, steady and sustained release of energy from the food, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer.  The beneficial effect of such fruit on controlling blood sugar levels implies that berries offer a protective effect against the development of Type 2 Diabetes.  In addition, strawberries, blueberries and other berry fruit have been shown to protect against ageing of the brain and Parkinson’s disease.  Some research has also shown that berries have an anti-cancer effect by inhibiting tumor growth and reducing inflammation in the body, however further investigations are needed within this area.