Be Merry with a Good Berry | Yashwarya Gupta

If nature could curate an “all- purpose health potion” berries would certainly be one of the top ingredients. Did you know that eating two servings of strawberries or a single serving of blueberries, regularly for a week, could lower your risk of general mental decline? Berries which are colourful tiny bites of sweetness, are also nature’s another gift to mankind as they are brimming with health benefits- cancer prevention, lowering the risk of heart diseases, preventing oxidative stress, reducing inflammation(which is one of the greatest contributor in any disease) ,these are just a few to mention. Berries are filled with antioxidants (which reduce harmful free radicals), fibre (lowers cholesterol and blood sugar), vitamins (boost immune system), polyphenols (reduce risk of heart disease) and hence the apt nomenclature “GOOD BERRIES”.

In the contemporary world, where both mental and physical health are constantly challenged by social and environmental stresses, following a healthy lifestyle seems to be the only way out of the maze. Good berries are the answers we find in nature to several health and dietary problems which includes-

1. Protection against oxidative stress

Good berries are on the top of the list when it comes to antioxidant percentage and thus help prevent free radical damage to cells and DNA. Some of the antioxidants in berries include vitamin c, tannins and anthocyanin.

2. Managing diabetes and body weight

Good berries are low in calories (a cup of strawberries ,for instance, only have 49 calories), fat , sugar and thus can be significantly beneficial in weight management as well as lowering blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity.

3. Fighting cancer

Good berries are proven to have anti- cancer properties as they inhibit the process of blood vessel formation which in turn feeds the growth of cancer cells (a process which is called angiogenesis).

4. Boosting brain function

Good berries are rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals and vitamins which may delay and even prevent age related memory loss. A research conducted and published by ‘National Centre for Biotechnology Information’ states that berry fruits have neuroprotective effects when consumed on a regular basis.

5. Beneficial in diabetes

Good berries may also be helpful in lowering blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, it also enhances glucose uptake by cells which prevents sugar levels from increasing immediately. Good berries also contain chemicals that inhibit the carbohydrate breaking enzymes, these enzymes convert carbohydrate into simple sugars , which in turn increases insulin quickly.

6. Support heart health

Good berries may also reduce cholesterol levels and lower down blood pressure, both of which are the primary cause behind heart related problems. They also contain potassium which is proven to aid in heartbeat regulation as well as fluid balance .

7. Aids in digestion

Indian Gooseberry

Berries are generally very high in fibre content ( average dietary fibre in a cup of blueberries is 4 g , meanwhile the daily recommended fibre intake is at least 21 g) which prevents dietary issues like constipation by regulating bowel movements. fibre in good berries also feeds the good gut bacteria , because it acts as a prebiotic, thereby aiding in digestion.

Berries are versatile fruits as they come in several forms and it is estimated that there are more than four hundred different types of berries that can be found on our planet, some of which includes-

· Strawberries- These are pink or white in colour and are a major source of vitamin c, fibre, folic acid and potassium. These contain more vitamin c than oranges.

· Blueberries- These are blue-purple balls that are packed with the highest amount of antioxidants that could be found in any fruit.

· Cranberries- These are bright red in colour and are a source of fibre, vitamin a c and e. The antioxidants found in their extracts can aid in improving eyesight and preventing body infections.

· Gooseberries- These are green round berries and are popularly called ‘Indian gooseberry’ (amla) in our country. These are high in fibre and also contain one of the highest amounts of vitamin c, when compared to other fruits.

· A├žai Berries- Though lesser known, these purple/ violet berries are popular among vegans, as they are rich in fibre as well as omega fatty acids (the latter is required for proper neural and body functions). They also have traces of vitamin a and calcium.
·Mulberries- These are red and violet, and a natural dessert due to the sweetness it offers. These berries are a good source of magnesium, iron, and zinc and thus are nutrient dense.

· Goji berries/WolfBerry- These red tiny berries are known for their medicinal properties as they increase the number of immune cells naturally and also effectively manage weight. They were traditionally used to combat infection and illness.

· Caper berry – These are olive green in colour and have a sharp tangy taste which may resemble the flavour of a pickle. These were popularly used in ancient times due to their medicinal properties and aphrodisiac properties as well.

‘Superfood’ is a term which best describes the function and importance of good berries when it comes to a regular diet, as these fruits are not only versatile and delicious, but also greatly impacts the body mechanisms in a positive way. The recent global spread of COVID-19, has majorly questioned our lifestyle and immunity, thereby highlighting the need of immunity preserving and boosting ‘ superfoods’. The global health crisis also reinforced the maxim, “Precaution is better than cure”, as taking precaution of consuming immunity building foods offers the biggest cure to any such future risks. Good berries can be eaten raw or cooked and thus can be easily inculcated in our everyday diet, by following creative cooking ideas like- mixed berry smoothies, berry bowls, combining berries with yogurts, making berry jams, berry popsicles, mixed berry salads and adding berries to oatmeal or cereals.

Good berries are thus tiny powerhouses of nature that are delicious yet beneficial as they can solve multiple problems in a fun and delectable way. Try adding some colourful and wonderful good berries to your diet today