Out of all types of fruit, berries might be the most delicious, versatile, and easy to eat. Most importantly, they are an extremely healthy food filled with antioxidants. Any edible berry is a great choice for either a snack or part of a meal. If you want to pack in as much of the healthy goodness as possible, though, you might be wondering which berries have most antioxidants.
In this article, I will show you the top 5 berries with the most antioxidants. But before I start, you might want to know why you should care about the antioxidant content of berries in the first place.
Phenolic compounds: the berry’s colorful antioxidant.
To refresh your memory, antioxidants are compounds that help our health because they reduce oxidative stress by deactivating free radicals. Oxidative stress is associated with signs of aging and with many types of chronic disease, so we should be taking advantage of anything that will fight this process.
One of the best actions we can take to fight oxidative stress is to eat an abundance of foods rich in antioxidants. Berries as a group are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods there is.
The compounds in berries that have antioxidant properties are known as phenolic compounds. The most prevalent phenolic compounds in berries are pigments called anthocyanins. They are responsible for the blue, purple, and red colors of berries as well as their antioxidant properties. Berries also contain a range of other phenolic compounds, including flavonols and tannins. They also contain high levels of vitamins A, C, and E, which have antioxidant properties.
Studies have shown that phenolic compounds have many impressive benefits, including anti-cancer, anti-platelet, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. There have been many clinical studies in humans to find the effects of supplementation with various berries. The results show that berries are very effective in reducing the levels of biomarkers of oxidative stress in both healthy participants and those with diseases (1).
Berries are clearly an incredible food for reducing oxidative stress, and they should play a role in every healthy diet. If you don’t already eat berries on a regular basis, I hope this information inspires you to start!
To help you get the most antioxidants for your money, here are the top 5 berries with most antioxidants, along with their specific health benefits. This list is based on a USDA database of the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of selected foods (2). ORAC is a measurement of antioxidant activity per unit weight of food. I have listed the berries by ORAC value with the highest values last.
Whether in pies, smoothies, or straight from the bush, blueberries are one of the most popular berries. Blueberries are high in anthocyanins, which cause their deep blue color, and a range of other phenolic compounds. They also contain large amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Studies have found that regular consumption of blueberries may protect against type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and cognitive decline (3).
If you have access to wild blueberries, be sure to take advantage! The ORAC value of wild blueberries is twice that of cultivated ones. If you only have access to cultivated blueberries, though, they are still a very nutrient-dense food.
Elderberries are blue or black berries which grow on the Sambucus tree. Elderberries are an excellent source of vitamin A, which helps prevent skin wrinkles. They also contain high levels of flavonoids, vitamin C, and potassium. Elderberries have traditionally been used in herbal medicine for boosting the immune system. There have only been a few studies on the health benefits of elderberry, but they seem promising. In two studies, elderberry helped flu-like symptoms to improve more quickly than a placebo.
While a great source of nutrients, raw elderberries contain a toxic substance which can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (3). So, if you eat them make sure they are cooked! Other options are elderberry capsules, lozenges, and syrups which are available for treating the common cold or flu.
3. Aronia berries
Aronia berries grow on the Aronia shrub, which is native to North America. They are also known as chokeberries because they have a mouth-drying effect when eaten. Aronia berries are rich in polyphenols, vitamin C, and B vitamins.
Clinical studies have found that aronia berries have several intriguing health effects. They have the ability to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Aronia extract can inhibit the growth of colon cancer and reduce cell damage in breast cancer. It also fights insulin resistance, which may make it effective in preventing diabetes. Aronia also has beneficial effects on obesity, organ damage, and high blood pressure (3).
2. Black raspberries
Black raspberries, also called blackcaps, are a cross between raspberries and blackberries. They have a striking dark color and are amazingly high in anthocyanins and other antioxidants. They contain over half the RDA for vitamin C, as well as vitamin A, vitamin E, and the B vitamins.
There has been some promising research on the potential of black raspberries for treating cancer. Studies at Ohio State University have found that colon tumors were reduced in rats and esophageal cancer was reduced in mice when the animals were fed a diet including black raspberries. Clinical trials are now underway to find the effects of black raspberries on cancer in humans (4).
1. Acai berries
Acai berries, native to the rainforests of South America, have become a popular superfood due to their many alleged health benefits. But this berry isn’t just hype. Out of all the amazing berries listed here, acai berries win in terms of antioxidant content with ten times the ORAC value of blueberries. They also are rich in fatty acids and contain 19 amino acids.
There seems to be little research on the specific health benefits of acai berries. However, we can expect that they have many benefits due to their high levels of anthocyanins. Some of these benefits might include improved brain health, heart health, and reduction in tumors. Acai products are sometimes sold as weight loss aids, but there is not clinical evidence to support these claims (3).
I look forward to seeing more research on the benefits of acai berries. Until then, we can see that they are an incredibly healthy food based on their antioxidant content alone!
Make antioxidant-rich berries a part of your healthy lifestyle!
After learning about the nutritional content and health benefits of these berries, I hope you will agree that they are one of nature’s gifts. The antioxidant phenolic compounds in berries are an excellent way to protect against oxidative stress and help keep your body strong and free from disease.
By making antioxidant-rich berries a regular part of your diet, you can strengthen immunity, protect against diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. Berries are not only rich in antioxidants, but also high in fiber, low on the glycemic index, and low in calories.
So, enjoy these delicious berries freely! You can sprinkle them in cereal, mix them into baked goods, or blend them frozen in smoothies. Some can be purchased powdered, dried, or as extracts. Since processing can change the nutritional content of berries, be sure to read the nutrition label. Berry juice is not the best way to consume berries because it is high in sugar and lacks fiber. Whenever possible, eating berries fresh and whole is the surest way to get maximum nutrients and benefits.
Do you eat berries on a regular basis? What is your favorite type of berry, and how do you use it? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!