Researchers around the world are analyzing a wide variety of substances in berries that show promise when it comes to preventing serious problems like cataracts and cancer.
More than 9,000 phytochemicals have been identified in plant foods, with many more to be named, scientists say. These are chemicals in the plants that have a variety of beneficial health effects , and berries can be powerful sources of phytochemicals.
One of these phytochemicals is a compound called ellagic acid, which is believed to help prevent free radical damage of the cells, that can lead to cancer. All berries contain some ellagic acid, with raspberries and strawberries ranking among the top providers.
In fact berries, and the ellagic acid they contain, may help fight cancer on several fronts, according to Gary Stoner, PhD, professor and cancer researcher at Ohio State University in Columbus, who has worked on a number of studies involving blackberries. Ellagic acid is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce damage caused by free radicals, harmful oxygen molecules that can literally punch holes in healthy cells and kick off the cancerous process. “It also detoxifies carcinogens,” says Dr. Stoner.
But ellagic acid is just one of a host of cancer fighters in berries. They also contain lp flavonoids, tannins, phenolic acid, and lignans, which may help to keep you cancer free through a variety of mechanisms, including their antioxidant power.
A Cornell University study found that extracts from eight different types of strawberries significantly inhibited liver-cancer-cell growth in a lab study. And a lab study at the University of georgia found that phenolic compounds extracted from blueberries could inhibit colon cancer cells to multiply and also trigger these renegade cells to die. Cancer cells can develop into tumors when they multiply too fast and stubbornly refuse to die.- and even a little pressure to keep theses cells in line can reduce the change that a cancer will progress. Thus, their findings “suggest that blueberry intake may reduce colon cancer risk.”
Berries are also high in vitamin C content, which is also a powerful antioxidant. When you get a lot of vitamin C in your diet, it may help to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and infections. Vitamin C seems to be in particular important to prevent cataracts, which are thought to be caused by oxidation of the protein that forms the lenses of the eyes.
All berries contain large amounts of vitamin C. A half-cup of strawberries, for example, contains 42 milligrams, which is 70 percent of the Daily Value for this vitamin. A haalf-cup of blackberries has 15 milligrams, or 25 percent of the Daily Value.
One nice thing about berries is that they're a sweet solution to the unpleasant problem of constipation, as berries contain large amounts of insoluble fiber, which is incredible absorbent. It draws a lot of water into the intestine, which makes stools havier,as a result, they travel through the intestine faster. This means that you're less likely to become constipated.
The fiber in berries is also helpful in preventing bile acid ( a chemical that your body use for digestion), from being transformed into a more dangerous, potentially cancer causing form. A half-cup of blackberries has more than three grams of fiber, while a half-cup of raspberries has 4 grams.
Cranberries play a significant role in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs), which may effects as many as half of women in the United States before they get to 30. One study following 150 women found that drinking a combination of cranberry-lingonberry juice daily reduced the risk of infections by 20 percent.
Experts aren't sure how cranberry juice works to prevent UTIs, but it appears to keep bacteria from gaaining a foothold on the surface off the urinary tract . Drinking at least two 8-ounce glasses of pure, unsweetened cranberry juice daily should help protect you from infections.
A warrning for people who are taking warfarin - an anticlotting drug, also known as Coumadin - which can interact with granberry juice and could lead to bleeding or excessively thin blood. The medical literature contains several reports about possible interactions between warfarin and granberry.
Your brain is particularly vulnerable to free-radical damage as you get older, according to research. It's natural antioxidant system is not sufficient to protect your brain from free-radical damage. Oxidative stress probably plays a role in some of the cognitive (a fancy word for thinking) declines that occur with aging, researchers say. However, antioxidant polyphenols,like the ones found in blueberries, cranberries and straw- berries, may help preserve brain function. .
Fresh berries are highly perishable and need special handling to maintain peak freshness. When storing berries at home, don't crowd them together, which will cause them to deteriorate rapidly. It's best to store them, unwashed and uncovered, in a large bowl in the refrigerator.
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cataracts, cancer, phytochemicals, vitamin C,