Blackberries: Invasive Weed or Nutritional Powerhouse?
August 24, 2006--Though they elicit groans from gardeners trying to contain their prolific prickliness that takes over Northwest gardens, blackberries are one of many gems we have in our region. They are delicious, abundant, often free and very accessible. These fruits also can be helpful nutritional partners in preventing heart disease and cancer, regulating blood sugar and decelerating some effects of aging.
The fruit's characteristic deep purple hue is due to phytochemicals called anthocyanidins, flavonoids and cyanidin. They also contain substantial amounts of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
Studies with anthocyanidins have shown they can have a positive effect on eyes, halting cataract progression and macular degeneration based on ingestion of medicinal amounts in control groups. They also have been reported to be instrumental in preventing heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Another phytochemical found in abundance in blackberries is ellagic acid. Ellagic acid has been shown to have anti-carcinogen properties plus be a blood clot inhibitor and free radical scavenger. Ellagic acid can help reduce genetic damage caused by carcinogens such as tobacco smoke and air pollution.
Flavonoids strengthen blood vessels and capillaries. Because of this, they have been used in natural medicine to help conditions such as hemorrhoids, nose bleeds and varicose veins.
Blackberries at their peak have high sugar content, so diabetics should check with a nutritionist to determine consumption guidelines.
Writer: Lisa A. Price, research associate, Department of Basic Sciences, Bastyr University
Republished with permission from Seattle Post-Intelligencer.