Berries are known to have a number of health benefits if eaten regularly. This is because berries contain a number of chemicals that are thought to be bioavailable and interact with human tissues. These chemicals have been perhaps most extensively researched for their favourable benefits on blood pressure and their protective effect against cardiovascular disease. However, evidence suggests that berries are also protective of cancer.
The exact way in which berries protect from cancer may depend on the type of berries eaten, as each berry has a unique phytonutrient profile. However, the two most important chemicals are thought to be the anthocyanin group of flavonoids and ellagic acid. While both of these compounds are polyphenolic antioxidants, they may have other effects in humans, including the ability to prevent new blood vessel formation in tumours.
Strawberries and Raspberries
Both strawberries and raspberries are good sources of ellagic acid. Regular consumption of these fruits may therefore confer protection from cancer. In strawberries the ellagic acid is present in the pulp of the fruit and this makes most of it available to absorb. However, in raspberries, the ellagic acid is protected inside the seed. Unless these seeds are crushed before eating, the ellagic acid is therefore not available to absorb from raspberries.
Blueberries contain a number of anthocyanins, which are polyphenolic compounds belonging to the flavonoid family of nutrients. Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, blue and purple colours in many fruits and petals. As well as being antioxidant, anthocyanins may inhibit angiogenesis, by inhibiting the production of the growth factors required for the formation of blood vessels. Of the anthocyanins delphinidin appears to be the most potent.
Frozen Or Fresh
Berries are summer fruits. That means traditionally for part of the year they were not available. Modern transportation now allows berries to be available all year round. However, out of season they can be expensive. Frozen berries are a solution to this problem, as frozen berries are cheaper but retain their anticancer chemicals. Picking your own berries that grow wild is also beneficial, and these can be frozen to allow year round cancer protection.