Berry Berry Beneficial: Reduce Inflammation with Fruit
Posted: October 27, 2014
What is inflammation? It is the body’s natural immune response. Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be bad. Some forms of inflammation can be protective such as a swelling of a sprained ankle to protect the bone. Other forms such as chronic inflammation can be progressive, severe, and play a role in chronic diseases and conditions. Some of these include heart disease, chronic pain, age-related diseases, memory loss, and autoimmune diseases. Many types of inflammation can affect us long-term but we can help to minimize inflammation within the body with our diet.
Eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is one of the best ways to provide our body with the combination of nutrients we need to protect and combat inflammation. In general, foods that are nutrient dense and contain antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, such as fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fats, and spices. Berries contain antioxidant properties, which are substances that prevent or delay some types of cell damage, and can reduce inflammation.
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, and tart cherries contain a class of antioxidants known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits, and protect the watery portions of our cells. One of the subclasses of flavonoids is referred to as anthocyanins, which are mainly found in berries. Fruits containing anthocyanins possess anti-inflammatory activity. Anthocyanins are also responsible for the blue, purple, and red color we see in fruits. There are many benefits of anthocyanins including their potential to protect against chronic diseases. Flavonoids are concentrated in the skin and peel of the fruit. Fruits that contain high amounts of flavonoids and other antioxidants have been associated with lower markers of inflammation in adults. There are many studies supporting the role of antioxidant properties in reducing inflammation and preventing diseases. One study from the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry investigated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of blueberry and cranberry anthocyanins. The anthocyanins in both berries were found to protect the cells against inflammation. The berries also reduced various inflammatory mediators involved in the inflammation response. Therefore, both blueberries and cranberries are shown to protect cells against inflammatory damage.
The research supports some foods like berries and cherries have the capacity to suppress inflammation, but the majority of evidence is unclear regarding how much of the fruit is needed and how often it should be eaten to experience the benefit. Overall good nutrition including a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and antioxidant rich foods can reduce inflammatory stress. The goal is not eliminate inflammation completely because some types of inflammation can be protective. The goal is to minimize inflammation, and help the body recover, or heal. From a dietary standpoint, it is important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, and minimize inflammation by including those high in antioxidants such as berries and cherries.
The serving size for fresh or frozen cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries is one cup. One serving of strawberries is equivalent to eight medium berries. One-half cup of fresh or frozen cranberries is a serving, and one-fourth cup of dried cranberries is considered a serving. You can add these berries to yogurt, oatmeal, salads, smoothies, or eat them fresh.
- Penn State Dietetic Internship