Berries are small, soft, round fruit of various colors — mainly blue, red or purple. They are sweet or sour in taste and often used in preservatives, jams and desserts. Berries tend to have a good nutritional profile. They are typically high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidant polyphenols.
As a result, incorporating berries into your diet may help prevent and reduce symptoms of many chronic diseases. Here are 8 of the healthiest berries you can eat.
Blueberries are popular berries that serve as a great source of vitamin K. One cup (148 grams) of blueberries provides the following nutrients:
- Fiber:6 grams
- Vitamin C:24% of the RDI
- Vitamin K:36% of the RDI
- Manganese:25% of the RDI
Blueberries also contain antioxidant polyphenols called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins from blueberries may reduce oxidative stress, thus lowering the risk of heart disease in both healthy people and those at high risk for the disease. In addition, blueberries may improve other aspects of heart health by lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of heart attack and enhancing the function of arteries .
Blueberries may lower the risk of diabetes as well. Studies have shown that blueberries can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 26%. A large observational study has shown that people who eat blueberries also have slower rates of cognitive decline, meaning their brain remains healthy as they age.
However, more research is needed to determine the exact role that blueberries play in brain health.
Raspberries are often used in desserts and serve as a very good source of fiber. One cup (123 grams) of raspberries provides (13):
- Fiber:8 grams
- Vitamin C:54% of the RDI
- Vitamin K:12% of the RDI
- Manganese:41% of the RDI
Raspberries also contain antioxidant polyphenols called ellagitannins, which can help reduce oxidative stress. One study showed that when consumed as a drink with other berries, raspberries reduced oxidative stress caused by exercise in cyclists.
Raspberries may also increase leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full. The most commonly consumed raspberries are the American red or European red varieties. However, there are many different types of raspberries, and black raspberries have been shown to have a number of health benefits, too.
Black raspberries may be especially good for heart health. Studies have proven that black raspberries can reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Other studies have shown that black raspberries may reduce inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome and reduce the size of polyps in the colon. Polyps are abnormal cell growths that can lead to cancer.
However, these studies were very small. More research is needed to confirm the benefits of black raspberries.
3. Goji Berries
Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are native to China and used in traditional medicine. They have recently become very popular in the Western world.
One ounce (28 grams) of dried goji berries provides:
- Fiber:2 grams
- Vitamin C:9% of the RDI
- Vitamin A:50% of the RDI
- Copper:28% of the RDI
Goji berries also contain high levels of vitamin A and zeaxanthin, both of which are important for eye health.One study of 150 elderly people found that eating 14 grams of goji berries per day prevented decline in eye health due to aging. This study, along with a second similar study, have shown that eating wolfberries can raise blood zeaxanthin levels.
Like many other berries, goji berries contain antioxidant polyphenols. One study found that eating goji berries for 30 days increased blood antioxidant levels of healthy, older Chinese people. Another study found that drinking goji berry juice for two weeks increased metabolism and reduced waist size in overweight people.
Strawberries are one of the most commonly consumed berries in the world and also one of the best sources of vitamin C.
One cup (152 grams) of strawberries provides (27):
- Fiber:3 grams
- Vitamin C:150% of the RDI
- Manganese:29% of the RDI
Strawberries are good for heart health. In fact, a study of over 93,000 women found that those who ate more than three portions of strawberries and blueberries per week had over a 30% lower risk of heart attack. Other studies have shown that strawberries may reduce a number of risk factors for heart disease including blood cholesterol, triglycerides and oxidative stress.
Strawberries can also reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory chemicals in the blood, such as IL-1β, IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP) . Moreover, strawberries may help control blood sugar levels, which is important for preventing diabetes .
Bilberries are very similar to blueberries, and the two are often mistaken. Bilberries are native to Europe, whereas blueberries are native to North America.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of bilberries provides:
- Fiber:9 grams
- Vitamin C:24% of the RDI
Many scientific studies have shown that bilberries are effective at reducing inflammation. A couple of studies have shown that eating bilberries or drinking bilberry juice can reduce inflammation in people at risk of heart disease or metabolic syndrome. Another study of 110 women found that eating bilberries for around one month reduced inflammation but also reduced waist circumference by 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) and weight by 0.4 pounds (0.2 kgs). Bilberries may also increase “good” HDL cholesterol and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.
6. Acai Berries
Acai berries grow on acai palm trees native to the Brazilian Amazon region. They have become popular health food supplements because of their high antioxidant content.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of acai berries provides (45):
- Fiber:2 grams
- Vitamin A:15% of the RDI
Keep in mind that acai berries are often consumed dried or freeze-dried, which can affect the nutritional content. Acai berries are one of the best sources of antioxidant polyphenols and may contain as much as ten times more antioxidants than blueberries
Additionally, acai berry pulp has been shown to reduce blood sugar, insulin and blood cholesterol levels in overweight adults who consumed 200 grams per day for one month. However, this was in a very small study of only ten people.
Cranberries are an extremely healthy fruit with a sour taste. They are rarely eaten raw. Instead, they are commonly consumed as juice.1 cup (110 grams) of raw cranberries provides.
- Fiber:1 grams
- Vitamin C:24% of the RDI
- Manganese:20% of the RDI
Like many other berries, cranberries also contain antioxidant polyphenols. However, most of these antioxidants are in the skin of the cranberry. Therefore, cranberry juice does not contain as many polyphenols. The best-known health benefit of cranberries is reducing urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Certain chemicals in cranberries prevent the bacteria E. coli from sticking to the wall of the bladder or urinary tract, therefore preventing infection .A number of studies have shown that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements canreduce the risk of UTIs.
Grapes are widely consumed either as whole, raw fruit or as juice, wine, raisins or vinegar. One cup (151 grams) of whole, raw grapes provides (67):
- Fiber:4 grams
- Vitamin C:27% of the RDI
- Vitamin K:28% of the RDI
The skin and seeds of grapes are an excellent source of antioxidant polyphenols. A number of studies have shown that grape seed polyphenol extracts can lower both blood pressure and heart rate. However, many of these studies were small. Other studies assert that the effect of polyphenols on blood pressure remains unclear.
Grape juice may even benefit brain health. A small study of 25 women found that drinking 12 ounces (355 ml) of grape juice every day for 12 weeks significantly improved memory and driving performance.