The Heart Benefit of Berries
The sweet strawberry, the perfect bite-sized blueberry, the luscious raspberry-these palate-pleasing fruits are bursting with flavor. And something more: They contain anthocyanin-a potential heart-protecting chemical. It could be the reason why eating berries may be good for your heart, even helping to prevent a heart attack.
Like other fruit, berries are packed with valuable nutrients, such as vitamin C and fiber. Such nutrients help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Zoom in for a closer look, though. You'll also find micronutrients called phytochemicals.
Phytochemicals are compounds that plants produce naturally. And there are lots of them. You may have heard of a few-beta carotene, folic acid, lycopene. Scientists have only recently started to study phytochemicals and their possible health effects.
Anthocyanin is one type of phytochemical; it's a member of the flavonoid group. It gives berries their vibrant red or blue hue. You can also find it in other similarly colored produce, such as eggplant, black currants, grapes, and red cabbage.
Scientists analyzing anthocyanin and other flavonoids have noted an interesting link between these chemicals and better heart health. One study found that eating foods rich in anthocyanin was associated with a lower risk for high blood pressure. The effect was strongest among people younger than age 60.
The latest evidence suggests anthocyanin may also help prevent heart attacks. A study in the journal Circulation looked at the food survey data of more than 93,000 women over an 18-year period. Researchers found that women who ate the most foods filled with anthocyanin-namely, strawberries and blueberries-were 32 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.
How does anthocyanin possess such power? Scientists suspect it may work as an antioxidant. That is, it flushes the body of free radicals-harmful substances that have been singled out as possible promoters of disease. Another theory: The chemical may reduce inflammation in the body, a process linked to heart disease.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.