The term “superfoods” is thrown around very loosely these days, but what does it really mean? Well, it usually refers to foods that contain significantly higher-than-average levels of vital vitamins and minerals. And most nutritionists agree that there are a few berries that fall into this category. Packed with antioxidants and a myriad of nutrients, these seven berries (not all of them are technically berries) should be in your fridge at all times.
Of all the berries in this list, none have as many antioxidants as the humble blueberry. Tiny chemical compounds called anthocyanidins give blueberries their luscious colour, but they’re also powerful antioxidants that can counteract free radical damage in our cells — the cause of some cancers. Blueberries are also effective at fighting diseases caused by redness of the cells, which include heart disease, varicose veins, peptic ulcers and cataracts.
Strawberries are a rich source of antioxidants called phenols, which are good for our immune system and general wellbeing. Several studies have shown that the antioxidants in strawberries provide protection for the brain, reduce the rate at which our eyes deteriorate and promote liver health. And if all this isn’t impressive enough, strawberries are rich in fibre, several B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Cherries are a rich source of ellagic acid, which is an antioxidant that has been shown to promote healthy tissues and cells. There are also high levels of anthocyanins and bioflavonoids in cherries, which are both substances known to alleviate muscle and joint problems. Melatonin is also found in significant amounts; this natural chemical is known to affect our moods and sleep patterns.
4. Goji berries
For generations, the people of Tibet and Nepal have eaten goji berries in the belief they increase sexual performance and lead to longevity, physical strength and general happiness. The science seems to back up the belief that goji berries are packed with goodness.
The list of beneficial ingredients in the average berry is substantial and includes 21 minerals, 18 essential amino acids, selenium, germanium, vitamins B1, B2 and E and more beta carotene than in a carrot. And according to the Chinese Journal of Oncology, people being treated for cancer responded more favourably to treatment when asked to include goji berries in their diet.
5. Acai berries
Acai berries deliver many of the same benefits red wine delivers. They are packed with anthocyanins, which lower cholesterol and promotes good heart health. The antioxidants in acai berries also promote cell health, give the immune system a boost and slow down certain aspects of the ageing process.
Blackberries are full of antioxidants, but they also contain high levels of vitamins C and E, as well as ellagic acid. These important vitamins help in fighting chronic diseases such as cancer and liver disease. Blackberries are also a rich source of pectin — a soluble fibre that is thought to help lower cholesterol levels. And a recent study by a university in America discovered blackberries were effective in slowing down tumour growth in the mouth and colon.
Bilberries look very similar to blueberries, but they are much smaller and sweeter. Packed with antioxidants, the bilberry helps to regulate blood sugar levels and promote healthy arteries — reducing the chances of haemorrhoids and varicose veins. There is also evidence to suggest that eating bilberries regularly helps to prevent certain eye conditions, including cataracts and macular degeneration.
The next time you feel like snacking, don’t head straight for a packet of crisps or the biscuit tin. Chomping on these little beauties once a day should give your overall health a major boost.