HEALTHY FOODS — By Mini Padikkal — Berries are available in fresh, frozen or dried forms. Different types of berries are available all over the world. Among those some varieties are available in Oman too. They are cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry. Most of these varieties are imported from other countries to Sultanate. Though small in size, berries have big health and nutrition benefits. Research has shown that eating berries has a positive and profound effect on health. Let us have a look into those health benefits:
Cranberries are nutritious, rich in fibre, vitamin C and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids and proanthocyanidins. In addition they have unique anti-adhesion and antibacterial properties not found in other fruits. The National Institute of Health has done many studies, especially on the role of cranberries in fighting urinary tract infections (UTIs). Cranberry has unique anti-adhesion properties that prevent certain harmful bacteria from sticking to cells in our body. This newer concept of anti-adhesion is not just limited to bacteria causing UTIs but to other potentially harmful bacteria as well, including those responsible for stomach ulcers and gum disease. Cranberries contains flavonoids which are helpful to fight leukaemia, breast, lung and colon cancers. Flavonoids reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, by reducing the levels of bad LDL cholesterol. Cranberry juice has been shown to inhibit the bacteria associated with peptic ulcers, H. pylori. It is a great remedy for diarrhoea too.
Fresh blueberries have an Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) value of 2400 per 100 gms. They are rich in phytochemicals such as phenolic acid, anthocyanins and ellagic acid, a natural compound that inhibits tumour growth. It is antibacterial and it is good for heart too.
Blackberries are high in antioxidants. They have the highest antioxidant capacity when compared with other berries. They are also rich in vitamin C and fibre. They contain catechins, such as quercetin, which is an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of heart disease and stops action of histamine for people with allergies. Blackberries contain phytochemicals tannin, flavonoid and cyanidine, which have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Xylitol, a popular sugar alternative, is made from raspberries. They are good source of fibre, phosphorus and selenium, and an excellent source of Vitamin C. Fresh raspberries, which are high in vitamin C, are used to treat and prevent sinus infections. They are rich in a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals like ferulic acid and beta-sitosterol that can prevent the growth of premalignant and malignant oral cancer cell growth. They have an important role in reducing blood sugar level and preventing or improving fatty liver conditions.
Strawberries are rich in phenolics and antioxidants, flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin and kaempferol. They are rich in folate, potassium and fibre. Strawberries have a role in reducing oestrogen-driven cancer as they are rich in ellagic acid, which may function as an oestrogen blocker.
Phytochemicals in strawberries are found to control Type 2 Diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels after a starchy meal. They have a powerful antithrombotic effect by promoting anti platelet activity.
To get the optimal health benefits of berries eat two to three types of fresh, frozen or dehydrated berries each day. They can add flavour and nutrition to numerous dishes. Incorporate the benefits of berries into your daily diet, as a snack or part of meal. They are great addition to your salads too. So enjoy the benefits!
(Note: The writer is a dietician at Atlas star
Medical Centre, Al Khuwair, Muscat.