If there were a contest in the fruit and vegetable world as to which kind of food would reign over all in terms of nutrients, the runaway winner would be berries. Lauri Boone, author of “Powerful Plant-Based Superfoods,” shares her wisdom with us.
The perfectionist in you should prevail if optimal health is what you are after. Therefore, be strictly guided by the Orac value. Orac, in the language of health and wellness, means oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It is the disease-fighting, inflammation-reducing ability of a plant, fruit or food. Thus, the higher the Orac value, the more potent its ability to prevent disease by controlling or absorbing free radical damage.
You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that berries are teeming with vitamins and minerals. Guided by the rainbow color rule, every possible rich and bright hue is visible in all berries. The ultimate principle is this: the deeper the hue or color, the higher the antioxidant content.
Here is a review of the existing berries in the world, in alphabetical order.
Açai—Orac value 102,700 µmol TE/100 g. Small and dark purple, açai berries (pronounced a-sayee) grow on tall palm trees in the Amazon forests of South America. What is unique about this is that it is an amazing survivor among the foliage and tree cover of the Amazon. In short, it competes with existing trees to reach the sunlight.
Nutritional content: 19 different amino acids, fatty acids like oleic acid (omega-9), linoleic acid (omega-6), and antioxidant anthocyanins.
Açai berries contain minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. It also contains many polyphenolic anthocyanin compounds like resveratrol.
Açai’s anthocyanin level is extremely high, so it is considered the runaway favorite among nutritionists to address heart problems, boost the immune system to decrease the risk of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. In the Philippines, Organique Açai has opened a free consultation hotline (tel. 0922-8887884, 4703580). Its açai berry content is pure and processed in the US.
Star of the berry world
Blackberry—Orac value 5,905 µmol TE/100 g. A low-calorie diet food, blackberries are rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Its ability to promote healthy skin and better brain function makes it one of the stars in the berry world.
Blueberry—Orac value 4,669 µmol TE/100 g. Called the “blue dynamo,” these berries boast of minerals and vitamin K, which assist in building bones. Apart from its delicious flavor, blueberry is the chef’s choice for baked goods and smoothies. Research suggests that a blueberry-rich diet can enhance one’s energy levels and increase resistance to disease. While its anthocyanin level is high, however, it cannot outrival that of açai.
(Anthocyanin is a subclass of flavonoids which may help to counter plaque build-up in the arteries.)
Camu-camu—Small, red berries which grow on bushes in the Amazon forest, they have a tangy taste that ensures the rich content of vitamin C. Considered a skin-helper, it also helps maintain healthy gums and eyes.
Cherry—Orac value 3,747 µmol TE/100 g. This delicious fruit is not only pleasing to the eye, it is a nutritious health helper. Those suffering from constipation will experience relief within an hour of consuming the fruit. Its high fiber and vitamin C content earn for it a place in the good berry category.
Cranberry—Orac value 9,090 µmol TE/100 g. No longer considered just a fruit for festivities, cranberries contain proanthocyanidins which specifically address urinary and bladder infections. Whether fresh, powdered or juiced, cranberries maintain their infection-fighting capabilities.
Goji berry—Orac value 3,290 µmol TE/100 g. For centuries, Chinese medicine practitioners have used this bright red-orange berry to treat high blood pressure and diabetes. Packed with vitamin C and E and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene, it is a healthy food choice.
Goldenberry—Common in South America, these berries help regulate metabolism. Good news for dieters: it gives the person a feeling of fullness.
Maqui berry—Orac value 27,600 µmol TE/100 g. A blood sugar regulator, these berries grow in Southern Chile, and have been used by early Indian medicine men to treat ulcers, fevers, inflammation of blood vessels.
Mulberry—Orac value 2,036 µmol TE/100 g. Full of polyphenols which are heart-friendly, mulberries provide more potassium than a banana. Potassium helps neutralize the ability of salt to raise blood pressure.
Sea buckthorn berry—Called the multivitamin berry, it helps in wound-healing and immunity-strengthening.
Strawberry—Orac value 4,302 µmol TE/100 g. Like blueberries and açai, strawberry has a high content of anthocyanins. According to a study, people who consume these three berries may reduce their risk of heart disease.