Why Are Raspberries Good for You?

Raspberries contain compounds that may help fight cancer.

Raspberries contain compounds that may help fight cancer.

Members of the rose family and boasting over 200 species, raspberries are hardy perennials that grow everywhere from the Arctic to the equator. Two species of red and black raspberries are the most commonly cultivated. A yellow variety that is a mutant of the red raspberry, as well as a newer purple variety that is a cross between red and black raspberries can also be found in grocery stores. Raspberries are colorful and flavorful and provide considerable health and nutritional benefits.

Potent Antioxidants

Black raspberries top the charts for ORAC value, a measure of antioxidant activity. They provide twice the antioxidant level of blackberries and more than six times that of red raspberries. Their antioxidant capacity comes, in part, from pigment molecules called anthocyanins, which give them their dark color and also function as potent antioxidants. Black raspberries also contain ellagic acid, which provides strong anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial benefits. A tissue culture study published in the November 2011 issue of the journal "Gynecological Oncology" found that black raspberry extract inhibited growth of cervical cancer cells. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results.

Reduced Risk of Colon Cancer

Black raspberries show promise as a preventive for colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to Ohio State University Research Communications. Consuming black raspberries may reduce the incidence of colon tumors by as much as 80 percent. Raspberries exert their anti-cancer effects by binding to free radicals, charged particles that can disrupt normal cellular activities and initiate cancer cell formation. A laboratory animal study published in the November 2010 issue of the journal "Cancer Prevention Research" found that black raspberries inhibited intestinal inflammation and reduced the occurrence of intestinal tumors by 45 percent. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results.

Vitamins and Minerals

Raspberries provide 1.5 times as much vitamin C, 3.5 times as much magnesium and 1.7 times as much of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin as blueberries. They also provide 2.5 times as much folate and twice as much choline, an important nutrient for brain development and healthy cell membranes as blueberries. They offer these benefits with the added advantage of supplying less than half as much sugar as blueberries. However, raspberries are lower in vitamin K and vitamin A than their blue counterparts.

Anthocyanins

Red raspberries rank among the top 10 highest antioxidant fruits and vegetables in the average American's diet, according to the National Berry Crops Initiative Berry Health Benefits Symposium. Red raspberries are particularly high in ellagitannin, a polyphenol with antiviral benefits and cyanidin, an anthocyanidin pigment that protects against cardiovascular disease and cancer. A tissue culture study published in the May 2012 issue of the journal "Cancer Letters" found that combinations of cyanidin and other anthocyanidins had a synergistic effect against non-small-cell lung cancer that was greater than the effects of any one anthocyanidin molecule alone. Researchers concluded that consuming a diversity of berries may be advantageous in lung cancer treatment. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results.

 

About the Author

Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.

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