December 2009 Issue

Picking through the Latest Science on Berries and Health Benefits

The health halo that crowns berries—the original "superfruit"—hasn’t slipped a bit over the years. Ever since it was discovered that berries have very high total antioxidant capacity, the public has had a veritable love fest for berries, making them its favorite fruit. Of all fruits, consumer research finds strawberries the favorite among adults and kids. Over the past decade, multiple research findings have supported the health benefits of berries, showing that they have a profound impact on chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and age-related mental decline.Berries 101. In botanical terms, a berry is a fleshy fruit in which the entire plant ovary wall ripens into a soft fruit surrounding seeds. Thus the definition of berries extends to include fruits like tomatoes, grapes and avocados. But in common terms, "berries" refers to the small fruits with multiple seeds we are familiar with today. While exotic berries such as acai have gleaned a lot of public attention, the largest body of berry research focuses on the traditional berries available in North America—blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, red raspberries and strawberries.

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