Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, raspberries and strawberries have so many health benefits, including but not limited to improving cognitive function, offering benefits for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), reducing inflammation and even increasing good bacteria in our gut. There are even initial promising results of a compound in blackberries having antibiotic like properties against drug-resistant bacteria MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus).
Blueberries improve cognition
In a 2017 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, dietary blueberries were found to improve cognition among older adults
In this study, 13 men and 24 women, between the ages of 60 and 75 years, were recruited into a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which they consumed either freeze-dried blueberry (24 g/day, equivalent to 1 cup of fresh blueberries) or a blueberry placebo for 90 days.
The findings show that the addition of 1 daily cup of blueberries to the diets of older adults can improve some aspects of cognition, such as
…significantly fewer repetition errors … in the California Verbal Learning Test (CLVT), a neuropsychological test which can be used to assess verbal memory abilities.
… fewer errors on trials when they switched to a new task as part of a task-switching test. Task switching is an important component of executive function, a collection of brain processes that are responsible for guiding thought and behavior.
This research was funded by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Blueberries boost serotonin and ease PTSD
A study presented in 2016 reports that blueberries boost serotonin and may help with PTSD and anxiety. This was an animal study where the traumatized rats were fed a blueberry-enriched diet. The study authors report an increase in serotonin levels and suggest that these findings
indicate non-pharmacological approaches might modulate neurotransmitters in PTSD.
Presumably this could help if you have anxiety and depression too, since low serotonin is often one of the underlying factors.
Anti-inflammatory activity of berry fruits
A 2016 study compared the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of extracts of Lycium barbarum (found in goji berries), Vaccinium macrocarpon (found in cranberries) and Vaccinium myrtillus (found in blueberries).
High amounts of phenolic compounds, including rutin, were identified in all berries extracts. Quercetin was identified in blueberries and cranberries. Hepatic/liver concentrations of glutathione were higher in animals treated with goji berry extracts. Overall the study reports that:
These results suggest that quercetin, rutin, or other phenolic compounds found in these berry fruits extracts could produce an anti-inflammatory response based on modulation of oxidative stress.
We know that inflammation plays a role in mood issues so this is yet another mechanism for supporting your body nutritionally.
Wild blueberry powder drink increases bifidobacteria in the human gut
Wild blueberries are a rich source of polyphenols, fiber and other compounds that are metabolized by the intestinal microbiota. A 2011 human study reports that six weeks of consumption of a wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) drink can positively impact the composition of the intestinal microbiome, by increasing levels of Bifidobacterium.
There are numerous studies showing the benefits of bifidobacteria probiotics on mood and anxiety. Here are a few of them:
- reduced depressive symptoms in IBS patients
- reduced anxiety (animal study)
- reduced inflammation, balanced neurotransmitters and a positive impact on the HPA axis (animal study)
Blackberry compound as an antibiotic against MRSA?
This section doesn’t involve eating blackberries but I’m including it because I just love this story, it’s inspiring and it has not received any coverage in the mainstream media. An article in a local publication reports that Irish teen wins top science prize for blackberry antibiotic that fights resistant bacteria
A 15-year-old science student Simon Meehan of Coláiste Choilm won first place in the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. His discovery is that chemicals found within blackberries could form antibiotics that kills Staphylococcus aureus – often known as MRSA and well known for being resistant to antibiotics.
And he says his grandfather – a herbalist – was the inspiration that kept him going, keeping a frame picture of him at his side whilst he worked.
Professor John O’Halloran, who helped judge the competition, was fulsome in his praise for Simon’s work: “This is a really exciting project which explores the possibility of the blackberry leaf extracts’ ability to control harmful bacteria. The unexpected findings deliver a unique approach to killing bacteria using natural plant active ingredients.
You can watch a video of Simon Meehan sharing more about this investigation and the result here:
Simon Meehan of Coláiste Choilm, Cork investigates the antimicrobial effects of aerial & root parts of selected plants against Staphylococcus aureus.
Here are some ways to enjoy berries in your diet:
- Fresh berries as a healthy snack
- Berries like blueberries are quite delicious when eaten frozen too – kids often love them like this
- In a smoothie for breakfast, together with coconut milk, a banana and some whey, pea or other quality protein powder (great for good blood sugar control/hypoglycemia and reducing anxiety and irritability too)
- As a dessert with grass-fed organic ice-cream or cream, or coconut milk if dairy is an issue for you
- Dunked in melted dark organic free-trade chocolate as an occasional treat
- Freeze-dried or dehydrated berries as a camping or travel snack
Make sure to buy organic berries as non-organic are on the Dirty Dozen list and are highly sprayed with pesticides.
How do you enjoy eating your berries and how often do you eat them?