Our skin is the bodies largest organ, so it makes sense to keep it nourished from within with a variety of health-giving foods including the wide range of colourful berries available today. Berries are full of Phyto-chemicals in the form of Antioxidants, plant estrogens and vitamins that can boost your health and protect the skin from damage.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without soft fruit – here’s some of the popular super berries and also a few unusual ones! – The best of a beautiful bunch!
The fruit of Wimbledon and the most popular fruit in the UK, the Strawberry is one of my favourites and extremely nutritious. Strawberries are found to be higher in Vitamin C than citrus fruits, Vitamin C is essential for Collagen formation and support – it is also a powerful antioxidant. Strawberries also contain Lycopene which gives them their red colour and can protect cells against sun damage, they also contain Vitamin A which is essential for healthy hair and skin. Ellagic Acid is also present in high volumes and is a powerful anti carcinogen, it can reduce damage to cells caused by tobacco smoke and air pollutants. Strawberries also contain natural Salicylates which also found in Aspirin, so could relieve a headache!
Blackberries are an ancient fruit, prescribed by the ancient Greeks to treat Gout! Also eaten by the Native Americans to relieve stomach ailments and digestive disorders, they are also mentioned in the Bible. Blackberries have been shown to contain the highest level of Phyto-estrogen’s, followed by Strawberries. They also contain Ellagic Acid, which helps neutralize Free Radicals and prevent cancer cells. Blackberries are considered to be an astringent because of their high Tannin content, studies show that tannins tighten tissue, lessen minor bleeding and may help alleviate intestinal inflammation and piles!
The antioxidants that are in Blackberries are Anthocyanin pigments, responsible for the purplish-black colour, Contains a powerful team of nutrients – vitamin C and heart protective Vitamin E, also thought to strenthen blood vessels, one handful contains 8 grams of fibre including Cholesterol-lowering Pectin.
Blueberries have a long history of use as a medicinal plant, native to North America where they grow wild throughout the woods and mountainous regions of U.S and Canada. These nutritional super-berries are bursting with goodness, packed with antioxidant phyto-nutrient Anthocyandins, they will help neutralize Free Radical damage to cells and help support Collagen. They contain significant amounts of this compound that gives the fruit its blue and purple colour, they also contain Resveratrol, another powerful antioxidant. In addition Blueberries contain Ellagic Acid, which has shown to prevent cell damage and prevent certain cancers. A rich source of fibre, calcium and vitamins A and C, low in calories and low Glycemic Load.
You can buy Blueberry plants at good garden centres, so you can pick off your own juicy berries throughout the summer! Remember they need an acid soil, so plant in large tubs with Ericaceous soil.
Another of North America’s native fruits, the Cranberry is indeed a super-berry! Cranberries contain the antioxidant compounds Proanthocyandins which have powerful anti-cancer properties, they seem to contain the most antioxidant phenols and are leaders of fruits in phenolic compound content. More well known for it’s effect on Urinary Tract Infections, the reason for this is it’s unique ability to inhibit bacteria, including E-coli, from adhering to the urinary tract. This is why Cranberry juice and supplements are recommended for Cystitis, they also contain Hippuric Acid, which is antibacterial and helpful for warding off urinary tract infections.
Cranberries can also reduce the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers. Uncooked ripe fruit is the best source of antioxidants (including frozen berries), the next best is dried Cranberries ,then the juice – but watch out for the sugar content! Like Blueberries, you can grow plants in tubs with acid soil and enjoy freshly picked berries.
Raspberries are thought to be native to Asia and eaten since prehistoric times. They come in various colours – primarily red, but also may be black, purple and even golden! The antioxidants compounds are Anthocyanins and give them their rich colour, the antioxidant activity are 50% higher than Strawberries and also contain Lutein, which is good for vision. High in fibre, Iron, Potassium and Vitamins A & C, plus Beta-Carotene. Raspberries contain Ellagic Acid which has anti-cancer agents and helps neutralize Free Radicals.
The leaves of the raspberry plant are also used for medicinal purposes – Raspberry Leaf Tea is reputed to be effective for balancing the menstrual cycle and easing period pains.
Goji Berries are found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and the Himalayas in Tibet, they are part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes. They are rich in antioxidants – particularly Carotenoids such as Beta-Carotene, which is converted by the body into Vitamin A, vital for healthy skin. Goji’s also contain Zeaxanthin – which helps protect the retina of the eye from deterioration. Goji Berries have been used for 6000 years by herbalists in China and Tibet to promote longevity, help eyesight, boost immune function and improve circulation, they are rich in B vitamins. Numerous health benefits are claimed including protection against heart disease and cancer, also is said to help defend skin against sun-burn (like tomatoes).
They are best eaten fresh, but you won’t find them in the supermarket! so opt for the dried variety – they look red and shriveled like raisins and are found in all health food stores. I include them in a bag of trail mix, with lots of nuts, seeds and other berries, for snacking on during the day. If you want to try them fresh, the best way is to grow a plant and pick off the ripe berries! They are widely available in this country and ideal for a large tub on the patio!
Some of the more unusual Berries available are Acai Berry, Boysenberry, Lingonberry and Honeyberry! but don’t forget your currants as well! black, white and red currants are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants as are black and red cherries and don’t forget black grapes.
I like to have a mixture of some of the berries featured, so you get the best out of all their individual benefits, use them in a trail mix to snack on throughout the day, in a morning smoothie or on top of porridge or cereal. Frozen berries are available in most supermarkets and remarkably freezing doesn’t destroy the vitamins or antioxidants, so it makes them easier to use!
Suttons Seeds sells a good variety of soft fruit plants to grow in tubs, including the unsual super berries, so why not try a few?
If anyone has any berry recipes please share via the comments.