Women Should Eat Berries, 8 Reasons Why
Good news about berries and women’s health has cropped up again. This time a new study shows that young and middle-aged women who enjoy berries several times a week may significant reduce their risk of having a heart attack. Let’s look at this and other reasons why women should make these fruits a regular part of their diet.
Berries are good for a woman’s heart
Berries have been celebrated in numerous studies for their health benefits, which are largely attributed to their high levels of flavonoids known as anthocyanins. These phytonutrients have been identified as possessing potent antioxidant properties.
In the latest study, conducted by a team at Harvard University, investigators evaluated data from 93,600 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which started in 1991. Women in the study reported their dietary intake and lifestyle habits every four years.
Here’s a summary of what the researchers discovered:
- Women who had the highest level of anthocyanin intake had a 32 percent reduced risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction) during 18 years of follow-up. This finding was made after adjustments for body mass index, physical activity, intake of saturated fat, use of alcohol and caffeine, and family history of heart attack
- Women who ate more than three servings of blueberries or strawberries each week had a 34 percent decreased risk of myocardial infarction compared with women who rarely ate these berries
- Women who consumed high levels of anthocyanins were less likely to be smokers, were more physically active, consumed less fat, and ate foods higher in fiber
- Intake of other types of flavonoids did not have a significant effect on the risk of heart attack
When the authors adjusted for fruit and vegetable consumption, the results did not change. They noted that this suggests “that the benefits are specific to a food constituent in anthocyanin-rich foods (including blueberries, strawberries, eggplants, blackberries, blackcurrants) and not necessarily to nonspecific benefits among participants who consume high intakes of fruits and vegetables.”
Other reasons women should eat berries
If you need more reasons to eat berries, here are three more.
Berries promote brain health and prevent memory loss. According to a report appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, berries contain phytonutrients that may prevent activity in the brain associated with calcium homeostasis, thus helping to preserve brain health.
Berries also have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce risk factors for degeneration of brain cells, while blueberries have been shown to help learning and memory. In addition these fruits can alter how brain cells communicate with each other, which in turn may help prevent cell damage.
Blueberries may prevent breast cancer growth. Researchers from two separate experiments reported that blueberry powder reduced the size of breast cancer tumors by 60 to 75 percent in mice. The berry powder also slowed the growth and spread of breast cancer in the animals.
Strawberries may help diabetes. Researchers at Warwick Medical School recently reported that strawberry extract can activate a protein in the body that in turn promotes heart health (essential for people with diabetes, who are at higher risk of heart disease). Strawberries also can help moderate blood sugar spikes and might help prevent diabetes complications because it contains a flavonoid called fisetin.
For women who want even more reasons to eat berries, here are four more.
- Black raspberries have demonstrated some ability to help protect against colorectal cancer
- Blueberry juice has been found to help reduce body weight
- A blueberry compound called pterostilbene may protect against asthma
- Blueberries can help lower cholesterol
Foods that are good for us don’t always taste great, but that’s not the case with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and others. Berries are a great tasting way for women to enhance and support their health.
Cassidy A et al. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation 2013; DOI:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408