Berries are awesome and there is a lot to say about them.
From what classifies as a berry to their antioxidant content and health benefits, information about berries tends to leave people with their mouths open.
What Classifies as a Berry?
In a botanical sense, a berry is a simple fruit that has many seeds. What is a simple fruit? In botany, fruits are categorized into simple fruits and compounds fruits, which are further subdivided into many categories. What differs a simple fruit from a complex fruit is the number of ovaries (units) present.
A simple fruit consists of a single ovary and a compound fruit consists of many. An ovary, when talking of fruits, means the number of units (or complexes) that make the fruit.
For example, a tomato is a berry because it has many seeds and it is a simple fruit; it consists of one fruit unit (ovary). A raspberry, on the other hand, is not a berry! Raspberries are considered compound fruits because they contain many ovaries. This means it contains many fruit units, each with a seed inside.
What’s a Berry and What Isn’t?
In botanical terms, berries include cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, citruses, dates, cranberries, and many others. Non-berry fruits include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. All of which are also compound fruits.
Botanical terminology isn’t always followed, however, especially since many compounds fruits (like strawberries and blackberries) have the word “berry” in their name. Misuse in terminology isn’t restricted to the general population. Other scientists refer to these fruits as berries. Research of strawberries and raspberries, for example, refers to them as “berries” and not “compounds fruits.”
Health Benefits of Berries:
Antioxidants and BACs:
Berries are rich in antioxidants and other bioactive molecules (BACs). Antioxidants and BACs protect against oxidative damage from free radicals at various tissue levels.
Free radicals are reactive molecules in the body that can damage DNA, cells, and tissues. Antioxidants have the ability to counteract free radicals and neutralize them, thereby reducing cell and tissue damage. A diet rich in antioxidants can be preventative for non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Berries contain high amounts of dietary fiber both soluble and insoluble. This is beneficial for intestinal and vascular health, as well as a preventive measure against colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, and cardiovascular disease. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It also helps reduce LDL cholesterol in circulation and thereby reduces some risk of heart disease and stroke. In contrast, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and promotes intestinal health. Insoluble fiber helps clear out intestines by loosening stool and facilitating bowel movements.
Berries are rich in vitamins and minerals while low in caloric content. This means that berries are a great food choice when aiming to lose weight by lowering caloric intake. Berries make great smoothies, toppings, and are a great snack on their own!
Schedule an appointment with one of CORE’s Nutritional Consultants or Registered Dieticians to find out more about the importance of antioxidants to your health and wellness today!
Skrovankova, Sona, et al. “Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity in Different Types of Berries.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 16 Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632771/.
Lobo, V., et al. “Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, Pharmacognosy Review, 8 Mar. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/.