Nutrition - berries

Tuesday 08 May 2018

This week I got my inspiration for this blog because it is Wimbledon fortnight and when I think of Wimbledon apart from the fabulous tennis I think of strawberry cream teas. Now I am not suggesting that we all indulge in cream teas but I am inspired by the very positive research on berry fruits and cancer. I thought this week we could have a look at some of these because they are very much in season, some of you may even have them in the garden.

Why are berries important?
Berry fruits, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and cranberries, are of course known for their vibrant colours and subtle flavours.

Apart from that they have been shown, through research to be real powerhouses of phytochemical compounds with anticancer potential. One major compound is known as Ellagic acid. Phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients are found in all fruits and vegetables and for those of you who read my blog on phytonutrients will realize that they are biologically active compounds which have been shown to have health protecting properties for our cells

More about ellagic acid
Early published research on Ellagic acid first appeared in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It is found mostly in the seeds of raspberries (90%) and the pulp of strawberries (95%), hazelnuts and pecan nuts are also rich in Ellagic acid. You may be interested to know that in Canada they have developed a new strawberry called “Authentique Orleans”, which contains very high levels of Ellagic acid as well as other phytochemical compounds. The benefits of Ellagic acid have been discovered as a result of research in the lab on cancer cells and some trials on animals.

  • It was shown that both raspberries and strawberries extracts were able to inhibit the growth of tumour cells.
  • There was also clear evidence that Ellagic acid prevented the activation of cancer forming toxins which lose their ability to react to the DNA of the cell and produce mutations capable of triggering cancer.
  • Ellagic acid may also increase the cells capacity to defend themselves against toxic aggression by stimulating cancer killing mechanisms.
  • It was also discovered that it a very powerful inhibitor of VEGF and PDGF proteins essential for tumour spread by the process of angiogenesis (when cancer cells develop their own blood supply for food and oxygen in order to survive).
  • In some laboratory studies it seems to reduce the effect of oestrogen promoting growth of breast cancer cells in tissue cultures.

So as you can see the research seems very promising although it still in its early stages. Some critics feel that Ellagic acid is as powerful as some pharmaceutical drugs developed to prevent the spread of cancer. Quite a bold statement.

What else do berries contain?
Anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins Berry fruits also contain other important compounds called Anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. Both of these are responsible for the vivid colours found in many fruits and vegetables but particularly abundant in the berry fruits. They may be responsible for the very high antioxidant potential found in berries far ahead of other fruits and vegetables. As we know antioxidants protect our cells from free radical damage,

Vitamin C We must also remember that the berry fruits are also very high in Vitamin C. This vitamin is hugely important for helping to keep our immune systems strong. It is also essential for good collagen structure. Collagen is the main protein substance of the human body. This makes it important for tissue repair and wound healing.

How many berries?
A guide if you decide to go down the berry route. I can remember that when I did the post graduate course on Nutrition and cancer the lecturer was talking about berry fruits and at that time he recommended that people with cancer ate 1 cup a day which could be fresh or frozen. I have not seen anything since to contradict this so it seems like a workable general guide especially if you have a variety of berries over the course of a week.

How to include berries in your diet
Whether we consider eating berry fruits for their strong antioxidant activity or for the presence of important compounds like Ellagic acid or the proanthocyanidins they do appear to make up an important part of a healthy diet.  Whether they are fresh, freeze dried or frozen. I have included some simple ideas that you may like to try for using berries in your everyday diet.

  • Simply sprinkled over muesli or porridge in the morning.
  • Mashed mixed with ½ tsp of honey and then mixed with natural yogurt, better chilled.
  • Thrown into a smoothie.
  • Recipe of the month in March, Berry cheesecake.
  • Maca strawberry milkshake  
    60g/2oz almonds.
    400ml of coconut water or water.
    2 tsp maca powder
    1 tbsp cocao powder
    ½ tsp cinnamon.
    250g/9 oz strawberries.
    Put all the ingredients in to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
    I am sure that you could use any berry fruits to make this.
  • Strawberry coconut Ice cream.
    200g of cashew nuts soaked in cold water for 1 hour then drained.
    250mls of water
    50g of coconut oil
    150g of fresh strawberries.
    1 tsp xylitol (optional)
    50g of creamed coconut chopped
    Put nuts and water in a blender and process till smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend together.Pour into a freezer proof container and freeze for 2-3 hours until firm. Remove from the freezer 15-30 mins before serving.

 See also:  Phytonutrients blog  (Aug 2013)

Antioxidants  blog (Aug 2013)

Blog originally written by caroline July 2013

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