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22 Edible Berries To Add To Your Diet With their Health Benefits

Small, round, soft, pulpy, sweet and sour and of multiple colours like red, blue, purple and black - yes we are talking about berries. Berries are often recognised as 'superfoods' by experts and their consumption is linked to reduced incidences of many disorders.

Antioxidants play a vital role in the prophylaxis and progression of diseases related to oxidative stress, and berries are loaded with them. The phenolic antioxidants in them may help scavenge harmful free radicals in the body and prevent diseases such as cancer, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer's, heart problems and many inflammatory disorders.

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What Are Berries?

As per botanical terminology, a berry is a fruit with pulp and seeds which are produced from the ovary of a single flower. They belong to many families, especially Rosaceae and Ericaceae which are known for best sources of bioactive compounds, great taste and flavour and full of nutritions.

Well, botanically, grapes are referred to as berries while strawberries and blackberries are not, though they belong to the family of Rosaceae. This is because the prior is grown from one ovary while the latter from more than one. [1]

However, if we look beyond, some fruits like banana, avocados, pumpkin, watermelon and tomato also fall under the class of berry.

Therefore, in this article, we will mainly discuss berries that belong to the family Rosaceae and Ericaceae, along with the names of a few small, round and pulpy fruits which are ‘mistaken' as berries, as they have the word ‘berry' in their names.

Nutritional Profile Of Berries

Berries are a rich source of bioactive compounds such as phenolic acids such as hydroxybenzoic and hydroxycinnamic acid; flavonoids (such as anthocyanins, flavanols and flavonols), and tannins. Along with that berries also contain vitamins like C, A, E, carotenoids, essential oils and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, copper, manganese and phosphorus. [2]

These compounds have potent antioxidant, anticancer, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti neurodegenerative properties.

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Types Of Berries With Their Health Benefits

These berries belong to the family Rosaceae and Ericaceae.

1. Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Black chokeberry is a small, black or dark violet blueberry-sized berry known widely for the prevention of heart diseases, especially due to its antiatherosclerotic, hypotensive and antiplatelet properties. Other benefits of this berry include the prevention of stomach ulcers, colon cancer, kidney diseases and diabetes. [3] Chokeberry is also known as Aronia berry.

2. Strawberry (Fragaria ananassa)

Strawberry is a rich source of flavonoids, phenolic acids and anthocyanins. These compounds are able to neutralise free radicals, modulate the genes expression, protect and repair DNA damage and thus, may help prevent diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and inflammation. [4] Strawberries are also an excellent source of Vitamin C and K.

3. Raspberry (Rubus)

Raspberry, mainly black ((Rubus occidentalis) and red (Rubus idaeus) are important food items in the Western diet due to their health-promoting activity. The major polyphenolic compounds in raspberry are anthocyanins and ellagitannins which are responsible for their antioxidant effects. Studies say there are four fresh raspberry varieties: Heritage, Goldie, Kiwigold and Anne, out of which, Heritage has the highest phenolic content, followed by Kiwigold, Goldie and Anne. [5]

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4. Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

According to a study, blackberry can help improve insulin sensitivity in obese individuals, which is a major risk factor for diseases like diabetes, stroke and cancer. Anthocyanins are the main flavonoids in blackberries which are known to prevent many obesity-related morbidities. [6]

5. Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)

Cloudberry looks like a raspberry, but with larger lobes and orange-rose colour. It is a rich source of vitamin C, ellagic acid and ellagotannins. The high amount of ellagic acid and vitamin C in cloudberry are responsible for its anticarcinogen, antioxidant and antimutagenic effects, while ellagotannins has great hepatoprotective actions. [7]

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6. Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Cranberry is a firm, shiny, plump and light to dark red coloured berries. It mainly consists of flavonols, proanthocyanidins and hydroxycinnamic acids which have potent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Cranberries may help prevent a range of infections and diseases by inhibiting the growth of microbes. It is also good for oral, colon and stomach health. [8]

7. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

According to a study, bilberry is among the richest natural sources of anthocyanins (antioxidant) which gives this berry its blue/black colour. Bilberry is known to promote good vision, lower glucose levels, lower cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress and prevent inflammation-related diseases. [9]

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8. Boysenberry (Rubus ursinus × Rubus idaeus)

Boysenberry is a hybrid of raspberry, blackberry, loganberry and dewberry. It is firm, round, plump and black coloured with a tinge of purple. Boysenberry tastes like a cross between raspberry and blackberry, and is often confused with blackberry, considering the latter is pine cone shaped and comes in pure black. This berry is rich in polyphenol and anthocyanins and may help prevent endothelial dysfunction and maintain good vascular homeostasis. [10]

9. Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Lingonberry has great antidiabetic and metabolic effects. It is a rich source of dietary polyphenols such as quercetin, anthocyanins and resveratrol that contribute to its antioxidant property. Lingonberry also contains omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols, along with magnesium, fibre, and vitamin A and C. [11]

10. Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)

Chokecherry (bitter-berry) is often confused with chokeberry due to the similarity in the names. Though they both belong to the same family (Rosaceae) and have almost similar health benefits, they have differences in appearance. Chokeberry has a rich amount of beta-carotene which is responsible for its great antioxidant effects. [12]

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11. Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)

They are also known as wild blueberries. A study has shown that lowbush blueberry has significant effects on the gastrointestinal system and may help promote its health, including beneficial effects on gut microbiota, which is related to a good immune system. They have a more intense flavour and extremely sweet than highbush blueberry. [13]

12. Arctic brambles (Rubus arcticus)

It is a golden-yellow coloured berry that is a hybrid of four plants: cloudberry seed, arctic roseroot, juniper sprouts and arctic meadowsweet. The primary polyphenols in arctic bramble are tannins and anthocyanins. This berry is known to have great antiproliferative effects against colon cancer.[14]

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13. Crowberries (Empetrum nigrum)

According to a study, crowberry has around 13 kinds of anthocyanins and looks similar to blueberry. The primary anthocyanins are cyanidin-3-galactoside and delphinidin-3-galactoside, at 8.04 and 8.62 mg/g. Crowberry is known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases due to its potent antioxidant activity. [15]

14. Marionberries (Rubus L.)

Marionberry looks alike blackberry as it is a cross between Chehalem and Olallie blackberries. It has a firmer texture than blackberry which makes it better for shipment to places. Marionberry also has a rich, earthly flavour and tastes sweet and tart like blackberry.

15. Saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Saskatoon berry appears similar to blueberry and belongs to the Rosaceae family, but is closely related to the subfamily of apples. It is an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper and carotene. They are also packed with an abundance of anthocyanins and flavonoids. Which may help prevent a range of chronic diseases. [16]

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Berries Of Other Families

16. Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa)

Gooseberry belongs to the family Grossulariaceae (currant family) and is very effective in boosting cognitive functions. They are also considered very beneficial for the skin and effectively remedy a number of skin problems. They also contain higher levels of Vitamin C than oranges.

17. Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Black elderberry belongs to the family Adoxaceae. According to a study, this berry is very effective in preventing upper respiratory symptoms related to cold and flu. Black elderberry is considered to possess a strong antiviral effect and is effective against many common cold and influenza viruses. [17]

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18. Acai Berry (Euterpe oleracea)

Acai berry, also known as acai palm belongs to the family Arecaceae and looks similar to black grapes. It contains powerful healing properties. They are very beneficial in boosting energy levels. They are also dense in levels of anthocyanins, a substance that is associated with heart health and lowered levels of cholesterol.

19. Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum)

Goji berry, also known as wolfberry, is a bright orange-red berry that belongs to the family Nightshade. It is usually found in the east and associated with sexual vitality and longevity. They are especially beneficial for protecting the liver as well as for fighting cancer. They are rich in essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins, selenium, germanium and beta carotene. [18]

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20. Mulberry (Morus alba)

Mulberry belongs to the Moraceae or fig family. It is rich in antioxidants which are good for fighting a fever. When the temperature rises, eat a handful of these berries to minimise the lower the fever. It also keeps you active which in a way is good for fighting harmful bacteria in the body.

21. Maqui or Chilean Wineberry (Aristotelia chilensis)

Maqui is purple-black berries and flavourful. It contains an abundance of vitamin C, iron, potassium and calcium and has high levels of anthocyanins and polyphenols which is responsible for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Maqui berry has a great anti-diabetic effect due to the high content of anthocyanins, says a study. [19].

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22. Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana)

According to a study, cape gooseberry (goldenberry) is widely used by healers and its benefits are mentioned in folk medicines. The vitamin C and total phenolic content in this berry has a high antioxidant capacity and gives promising results in the prevention of a range of chronic diseases. Don't confuse it with gooseberry, as the prior looks more like a yellow-orange cherry tomato and is soft, crunchy with a mixed taste of pineapple, mango and vanilla. [20] It belongs to the family Solanaceae.