There’s a good reason why everything from sour candy to cereals antacids and energy gels come flavored with berries. It’s a crowd-pleasing sweet flavor. But aside from the unmistakable flavor of artificially flavored “berry” foods, the real deal is one of best foods for runners. Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries, as well as their less common but still stellar siblings, acai and gooseberries, are all packed with nutrients and are remarkably versatile.
All types of berries are a boon for your body and brainand support for your fitness goals– offering plenty of reasons why runners should get more of it in their diet. Here, all the benefits of berries and how they support your overall health and performance.
What nutrients will you get from the berries?
According to 2021 data from the American Society for Nutritionjust 7% of Americans eat enough of a very important element carbohydrates: fiber. While whole grains and vegetables are strong sources of fiberfruit—something that 80% of American adults not eating enough—is also a major carrier of this important nutrient. Not only does fiber keep us full, it also helps to digestionsupports heart healthand reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, According to research.
“Berries are among the best sources of alimentary fiber in the fruit category,” says Michelle Hyman, RD, registered dietitian at Simple Weight Loss Solutions At New York. “They also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients. Some varieties, such as strawberries, are even surprisingly excellent sources of vitamin C.”
The nutritional value of berries differs slightly depending on the type, but each has health benefits. Here, nutritional information per 1 cup serving of some of the most common raw berries, according to the USDA.
Strawberry Nutritional contributions:
- 53 calories
- 1g protein
- 0.5g total fat
- 13g carbohydrates
- 3g fiber
- 8g sugar
- 98mg vitamin C
- 27mg Calcium
- 254mg potassium
Blueberry Nutritional contributions:
- 86 calories
- 1g protein
- 0.5g total fat
- 22g carbohydrates
- 4g fiber
- 15g of sugar
- 15mg vitamin C
- 9mg Calcium
- 116mg potassium
blackberry Nutritional contributions:
- 65 calories
- 2g protein
- 1g total fat
- 14g carbohydrates
- 8g fiber
- 7g sugar
- 32mg vitamin C
- 44mg Calcium
- 243mg potassium
Raspberry Nutritional contributions:
- 78 calories
- 2g protein
- 1g total fat
- 18g carbohydrates
- 10g fiber
- 7g sugar
- 39mg vitamin C
- 38mg Calcium
- 226mg potassium
Cranberry Nutritional contributions:
- 46 calories
- 0.5g protein
- 0g total fat
- 12g carbohydrates
- 4g fiber
- 4g sugar
- 14mg vitamin C
- 8mg Calcium
- 80mg potassium
What are the health benefits of berries?
Getting five fruits and vegetables a day from any source was associated with lower mortality risk, per year meta-analysis published in March 2021 in the journal Traffic. But berries specifically offer a host of health benefits:
1. They are all-natural anti-inflammatories
Vitamin C, quercetin (a flavonoid) and manganese function as antioxidants in the body, add Mary Stewart, Dt.P., registered dietitian and founder of Cultivate Nutrition in Dallas. This and the anthocyanins (polyphenols) that give the berries the vibrant color make them particularly potent at fight chronic inflammation caused by stress, unhealthy food choices and lack or excess of physical activity.
2. They could help you perform better
In addition to being anti-inflammatorythe berries offer antioxidant properties that can help fight fatigue and promote recoveryExplain Frances Largeman-Roth, RDNa nutrition expert based in Dobbs Ferry, New York and an avid runner.
To research suggests that blueberry powder supplementation may inhibit the blood lactate response when running, potentially allowing you to go longer or at a higher intensity without fatigue, says Largeman-Roth. (Full disclosure: The US Highbush Blueberry Council funded the study.)
3. Berries help increase satiety
Berries, one of best carbs for runnersare also some of the most nourishing ingredients to add to your post-workout snack or smoothie, it is thanks to their fiber content. Raspberries and blackberries are particularly high in fibre, “a key nutrient for weight management, gut health and reduce the risk of chronic disease,” says Stewart.
Berries of all kinds feed your gut with soluble fiber, which not only helps you stay full longer than, say, potato chips because they are slower to digest, but also blocks the absorption of some fats and cholesterol in your bloodstream.
4. They reduce the risk of chronic diseases
Research proves that eating berries three times a week or more can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart attacks. Adults who fall into the “overweight” and “obese” categories who eat 1 cup of blueberries every day for six months report noticeable improvements in heart health, reports a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2019.
5. They support your immune system
All berries are packed with vitamin C, no supplementation required, and strawberries are a particularly good source. (A cup of strawberries actually contains more vitamin C than an orange, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
“Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps support a healthy immune system and protect cells from free radical damage,” says Largeman-Roth.
6. They may reduce the risk of certain cancers
Speaking of free radicals, the antioxidants in berries, such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid and resveratrol, has been correlated with lower risk of several cancers, including breast cancer, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and cancers of the mouth. This may be partly due to the ability of antioxidants to “detoxify” carcinogens that can damage DNA during the cancer development process.
10 ways to add berries to your diet
Boost the color and nutrition of any meal of the day with these unexpected ideas from Hyman, Stewart and Largeman-Roth:
- Put a few berries in ice cubes to use in plain or sparkling water
- Stack inside a grilled cheese sandwich
- Prepare a sweet and savory pizza with ricotta cheese, prosciutto, berries, arugula and fresh herbs
- Mix a berry pasta sauce with a little olive oil, plus equal parts berries and parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt
- Create chia fruit jam by heating frozen berries with a spoonful of chia seeds, then refrigerating until they look like gel
- Fold them in pancake or waffle batter
- Puree frozen berries and coconut water or nut milk for a DIY sorbet
- Stir berries into yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal
- Snack on a tortilla roll with crushed berries and nut butter
Remember: “As with any food or drink, portion size This is the key. Berries are a high fiber food and although this is a great attribute when evaluating the nutrient density of a food, consuming too much fiber too quickly can lead to digestive discomfort, like bloating or constipation,” says Stewart. “If you’re new to consuming berries, start with a small serving of ½ to 1 cup and drink plenty of water.” Also, start by incorporating berries into your diet after workoutsrather than before until you know how your digestive system responds.
The essentials on the benefits of berries
If it’s within your budget and you can find some, stock up on organic berries, suggests Stewart. That’s because strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are consistently ranked among the highest fruits in terms of pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group. “This can be greatly improved by buying organic products,” adds Stewart.
Whether you buy them fresh or frozenorganic or non-organic, the goal is to get your two to four servings of fruit a day, with berries being the top choice.
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