Succulent, sweet and pretty, red raspberries are a so-called foodie’s treat. It turns out these bright berries are also packed with health benefits.
A new research review has found that, besides being an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre, red raspberries (as opposed to yellow or black ones) may help improve cardiovascular and brain health and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases like diabetes.
“It’s all in the chemistry,” says Britt Burton-Freeman, lead author of the review published recently in Advances in Nutrition. “Red raspberries are a unique combination of nutrients and phytochemicals–plant chemicals with bioactivity.”
Those compounds have may have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and metabolic stabilizing activity. That’s significant, because certain conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease, all share critical metabolic, oxidative, and inflammatory links.
“It’s exciting to see the research uncover the type of effects red raspberries have in biological systems that suggest potential reducing risk for many of the chronic diseases we see today,” says Burton-Freeman, director of the Center for Nutrition Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “Much of the research at this point is in cell culture and animal models supporting research in humans to verify effects. This work in humans is happening now.
The review looked at out raspberries’ potential health benefits in four key areas:
Regular cardiovascular exercise, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet are all critical in preventing heart disease, which remains a leading cause of death. New research is also looking into the effect of excess oxidative stress and inflammation on cellular tissue and cardiovascular function.
Animal and cellular studies have shown that after red raspberry exposure or feeding, ellagic acid – the primary breakdown product of ellagitannins – can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Those studies point to the potential of the berries in lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis, the buildup of fat and cholesterol in the arteries.
Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for diabetes. A few studies included in the review, funded in part by the National Processed Raspberry Council. suggest that different polyphenolic components of red raspberries have biological activity that may help improve insulin responses and reduce blood-glucose levels.
Although human studies are lacking, research conducted in mice fed a high-fat diet found that the addition of raspberry ketones reduced body weight and increased the breakdown of fat.
Obesity and being overweight are major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Raspberries are extremely high in fibre, which can help with satiety and weight control.
The crimson berries seem to have the potential to reduce factors related to metabolic syndrome, which, besides increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, has been linked with cognitive impairment, dementia and development of Alzheimer’s.
The berries’ polyphenol components could help improve brain health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Other raspberry uses
Red raspberries and the leaves of the plant have been used in traditional medicine for millennia. Proponents say the berries can help alleviate painful periods, morning sickness associated with pregnancy and gastrointestinal problems with diarrhea. Some pregnant women take raspberry-leaf supplements to try to induce labour.
What’s your favourite way to eat raspberries? Let us know by tweeting @YahooStyleCA.