There is more to blackberries than just their delicious taste. This juicy and versatile fruit is a powerhouse of nutrition that boasts of many health benefits. Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, blackberries have been used for their medicinal properties since ancient Greek and Roman times. They can help boost immunity, improve brain function, and fight cancer. Read on to learn more about blackberries and their nutritional benefits.
What are blackberries?
Blackberries are the fruit of the blackberry bush, which belongs to the Rosacea family. Each blackberry consists of 20 to 50 seeds known as drupelets, which are filled with deep purplish-black juice. Technically blackberries are an aggregate fruit rather than a berry. Ripe blackberries have a soft texture and sweet flavor, which is similar to raspberries. Blackberries grow wild around the world, and there are more than 375 species of this fruit. These perennial plants have biennial stems.
History of blackberries
People have used blackberries for their medicinal properties for over 2000 years. The ancient Greeks utilized blackberry as a remedy for Gout, and the Romans made tea from the leaves of the blackberry bush to treat various illnesses. The American Indians used blackberry bush roots to alleviate asthenia in women after they gave birth. They also used it to treat diarrhea.
John Bartram, the early American explorer, and botanist was the first person to write about blackberries in 1733. Describing blackberry vines, he wrote that just outside Mobile, Alabama ‘it grows here five or six-foot-high, rambling like Brier vines over fences and shrubs.’ Modern cultivation of blackberries began in 1880 by Judge Logan of California. Rudolf Boysen developed boysenberry. The Youngberry was developed in Morgan City, Louisiana, in 1905.
The nutritional profile of blackberries
Blackberries are a rich source of nutrients like potassium, manganese, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin A, C, and E. They are rich in anthocyanins, which give them their dark purple color. One cup (144 grams) of blackberries contains (1) –
- Calories – 61.9
- Carbohydrates – 14.7 grams
- Fiber – 7.6 grams
- Sugar – 7 grams
- Fat – 0.7 grams
- Protein – 2 grams
- Vitamin C – 30.2 mg (50% DV)
- Vitamin K – 28.5 mcg (36% DV)
- Folate – 36 mcg (9% DV)
- Vitamin E – 1.7 mg (8% DV)
- Vitamin A – 308 IU (6% DV)
- Manganese – 0.9 mg (47% DV)
- Potassium – 233 mg (7% DV)
- Calcium – 41.8 mg (4% DV)
- Magnesium – 28.8 mg (7% DV)
Health benefits of blackberries
According to a 2013 study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, regularly eating blackberries improves both motor and cognitive function. They significantly enhance short-term memory performance. These effects are the result of polyphenols increasing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory levels (2).
Blackberries are also a rich source of manganese. A large portion of manganese in our body is found in the synapses of the brain. A deficiency of manganese can lead to epilepsy (3). The polyphenols found in blackberries also have neuroprotective effects (4).
2. Boost immunity
Blackberries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant compound with antiviral and antibacterial properties. One dry weight gram of blackberries has 3.69 mg of ellagic acid. The vitamin C content of blackberries also boosts immunity and helps the body fight infections.
According to a study from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, the antibacterial properties of blackberry extract, along with its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, help in preventing and controlling oral infections (5). Blackberry extract also has potent antiviral properties which help treat herpes simplex virus (6).
3. Reduces cancer risk
Blackberry helps in reducing the risk of cancer and also slowing down the growth of cancerous cells. Blackberries contain polyphenols, which are known for their cancer-fighting abilities. The anthocyanin polyphenols present in blackberries have potent antiproliferative, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities that help in treating cancer (7).
According to a 2004 study, the bioflavonoids and phenolic compounds in blackberry extract inhibit the proliferation of human cancer cells (8). Cyanidin-3-glucoside, a product derived from blackberry, exhibits chemopreventive, and chemotherapeutic activity against a human cancer cell line (9).
A lab-based study from the University of California showed that many berry fruits, including blackberries, contain phenolics like anthocyanins, flavonols, ellagitannins, proanthocyanidins, and phenolic acids. They help to reduce the growth of oral, breast, colon, and prostate cancer (10).
Blackberries have one of the highest levels of the antioxidant content of any fruit. They are exceptionally high in anthocyanins, which are responsible for the purple-black color of this fruit. They help protect the body against inflammation and oxidative stress, which is responsible for several diseases (11).
According to a 2013 study from Italy, the ellagitannins from blackberries reduce gastric inflammation in stomach ulcers by 88% (12). The antioxidants found in blackberries also help by slowing down the onset of disease and premature aging.
5. Protect against heart disease
Blackberries are rich in vitamin K. One cup of blackberries provides 38% percent of the daily value of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps prevent the build-up of calcium in the arteries, which can lead to their hardening and other serious diseases.
Vitamin K also helps keep blood pressure in control, reduces inflammation in cells that line the blood vessels, and lowers the risk of heart attacks. According to research from Italy, cyaniding-3-O-glucoside represents around 80 percent of the total anthocyanin contents in blackberry extract. This anthocyanin protects the heart against cardiovascular disease (13).
6. Regulate menstrual health
Blackberries are rich in many vitamins and minerals, which help in reducing the symptoms of PMS. Vitamin K helps regulate hormones which help to reduce cramping and pain during menstruation. Blackberries also act as a tonic and prevent excessive bleeding during heavy menstrual cycles.
Blackberries also contain calcium and manganese, both of which help alleviate symptoms of PMS. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, increasing calcium intake helps reduce mood, concentration, and behavior symptoms in general and reduces pain and water retention during the menstrual cycle. Increasing magnesium intake is equally crucial because lower dietary manganese can worsen mood and pain symptoms during menstruation (14).
7. Improves digestion
When people do not get enough fiber in their diet, it can lead to digestive problems like bloating, constipation, and stomach pain. You can quickly solve these problems by including blackberries in your diet. One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 grams of fiber. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, promotes healthy gut bacteria, and keeps you fuller for longer. It also regulates cholesterol and helps control blood sugar levels.
8. Keeps bones healthy
Berries are rich in anthocyanins, which have anti-oxidative properties. Several studies have shown that high berry intake can lead to higher bone mass. So berries are an inexpensive alternative to reducing the risk of age-related bone loss (15).
Blackberries contain magnesium and calcium, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium helps to strengthen bones while magnesium aids in the absorption of calcium and magnesium in the body. Phosphorous constitutes to proper cellular functioning and helps in building strong bones. Blackberries also contain vitamin C, which is integral to collagen formation in bones, connective tissue, and blood vessels.
9. Controls diabetes
Blackberries are high in fiber and anthocyanins. These nutrients inhibit certain digestive enzymes and help slow down digestion. Blackberries also prevent spikes in blood sugar caused by starch-rich meals. The potassium content of blackberries also helps to keep the blood sugar levels balanced.
During a study, 27 overweight or obese men ate a high-fat diet which contained either 600 grams/day blackberries or a calorie and carbohydrate matched gelatin for seven days. The results showed that blackberry consumption promotes increased fat oxidation and improved insulin sensitivity (16).
10. Promote healthy skin
Blackberries also help keep the skin young and healthy. According to a 2015 study, blackberry extracts inhibit UV-induced oxidative damage and inflammation to the skin (17). Anthocyanin-rich blackberry extracts also protect the keratinocytes of the skin from UV damage. Keratinocytes are the cells that form the protective layer of the skin (18). Blackberries also contain vitamin C, which promotes collagen production, decreases dry skin, and prevents premature aging.
11. Supports oral health
Blackberries also help improve your dental health by preventing and controlling gum disease and cavities. According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontal Disease, the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of blackberry extract are effective against some bacteria that cause oral disease (19).
12. Help in weight loss
Blackberries are low in calories and high in fiber, both of which help in weight loss. The high fiber content in blackberries makes you fuller for longer, which reduces the desire for unhealthy snacking.
Side effects of blackberries
Blackberries are generally safe to consume. However, some people may develop an allergic reaction to them. The symptoms include swelling or itching of hand, mouth, or lips. The leaves and the roots of the blackberry plant, which are sometimes used to make tea, contain tannins. There is evidence to show that massive load of tannins can increase the size of tumors in cancer patients. You should also avoid eating blackberries if you are susceptible to kidney stones. The oxalates found in blackberries can increase the production of these stones.
Blackberries grow wild around the world, and there are more than 375 species of this fruit. Blackberries are a rich source of nutrients like potassium, manganese, calcium, and vitamin A, B, E, and C. They are also rich in anthocyanins, which give them their dark purple color. Eating blackberries helps to improve brain function, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, and cancer risk, protect against heart disease, improve digestion, skin health and oral health, and control diabetes.