Berries are often called a "superfood" — a term not given lightly. But can the health benefits of blueberries and blackberries help the fruit live up to its nickname? Absolutely. Blueberries and blackberries not only have lots to offer in vitamins and minerals, they're also loaded with antioxidants.
Because of their rich antioxidant content, blackberries and blueberries have been called "anti-cancer" fruits that can also help protect against other chronic diseases like heart disease and arthritis. And to reap the berries' powerful benefits, you need only a single cup per day.
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Blueberries and Blackberries Nutrition
When it comes to the basic nutrition of blueberries and blackberries, the two are pretty similar. One cup of raw blackberries contains:
- 62 calories
- 2 grams of protein
- 0.7 grams of total fat
- 13.8 grams of carbohydrate
- 7.6 grams of fiber
- 7 grams of sugar
- 233 milligrams of potassium
- 30 milligrams of vitamin C
- 84 calories
- 1.1 grams of protein
- 0.5 grams of total fat
- 21.5 grams of carbohydrate
- 3.6 grams of fiber
- 6.8 grams of sugar
- 114 milligrams of potassium
- 14.4 milligrams of vitamin C
Although the carbohydrates and calories in blackberries are slightly lower than the numbers in blueberries, they're pretty close, making both types of berries good choices. But it's not just the major nutrients that make berries stand out, they're also rich in powerful plant compounds that have been connected to lots of different positive health effects.
Read more: 4 Major Reasons to Eat More Blueberries
Anthocyanins in Berries
Both blackberries and blueberries contain a specific type of flavonoid (which is a plant compound with antioxidant effects) called anthocyanins. There are different types and different amounts in blackberries and blueberries, but both berry types have positive health effects because of their specific anthocyanin content.
According to a report that was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in February 2017, a single serving of berries can provide 100 to 200 milligrams of anthocyanins to your diet. That's five to 10 times more flavonoids than you get from other foods, on average. So, the next logical questions is: what do anthocyanins do and why are they important?
The same report pointed out that anthocyanins can improve several different metabolic risk factors, like body fat, blood sugar and heart health. Getting a lot of anthocyanins in your diet can also promote good gut health, which not only helps your digestion, but improves the health of your entire body.
Another report that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2019 backed up these findings, stating that eating just 1 cup of blueberries per day could improve the function of your blood vessels, increase HDL (or "good") cholesterol levels and improve metabolic syndrome. Researchers also noted that, while these effects were seen with 1 cup of blueberries, 1/2 cup of blueberries per day didn't have the same positive effect.
Antioxidants in Berries
But anthocyanins aren't the only reason why berries are hailed as a superfood. They're also rich in all types of antioxidants. In fact, the Berry Health Benefits Network notes that berries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of any fresh fruit out there. These antioxidants exist in berries in the forms of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Phenolic compounds
These antioxidant compounds can work in the body individually or together to combat free radicals — unstable molecules that can cause DNA damage and chronic disease — and reduce your risk of developing several disorders, like heart disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.
According to an August 2018 report that was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, these antioxidants can also protect your body from DNA damage, inhibit the growth and multiplication of cancer cells and kick-start apoptosis, a normal cellular process that helps kill old and damaged cells and remove them from your body as a sort of natural detox.
Another report that was published in Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry in October 2013 points out that blueberries, specifically, are one of the most widely-consumed berries in the United States and, because of this, their anti-cancer properties have been extensively studied. Researchers from the report stated that some of the antioxidants in blueberries help combat oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that contribute to the development of cancer.
A report from an April 2015 issue of Current Opinion in Food Science states that even short-term consumption of berries can improve inflammatory markers, increase antioxidants in the blood and improve blood sugar response to what you eat. But long-term consumption helps improve heart health, reduce chronic inflammation and improve the balance and concentration of the different types of cholesterol in your blood.
Fiber in Berries
Of course, it would be impossible to discuss the health benefits of blueberries and blackberries without pointing out that they're jam-packed with fiber. To put it into perspective, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women get 25 grams of fiber per day and men 38 grams daily. Unfortunately, many people fall short of these goals, but including berries in your diet can make meeting your fiber needs a lot easier.
So why is fiber important? Aside from helping to pull water into your digestive tract, bulking up your stool and making your bowel movements easier to pass, fiber also:
- Reduces constipation
- Alleviates the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Balances blood sugar and insulin levels
- Helps you maintain a healthy body weight
- Reduces the potential of complications and flare-ups from diverticulosis
A single cup of blackberries offers almost 8 grams of fiber — that's almost one-third of a woman's needs for an entire day. Although blueberries are slightly lower in fiber — containing just about 4 grams per cup — they're still a high-fiber food, offering between 9 and 14 percent of your total daily fiber needs, depending on whether you're a man or a woman.
- USDA FoodData Central: "Blackberries, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Blueberries, Raw"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Metabolic Effects of Berries With Structurally Diverse Anthocyanins"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Blueberries Improve Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Function in Participants With Metabolic Syndrome—Results From a 6-Month, Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"
- Canadian Society of Intestinal Research: "Berries: Bursting With Health Benefits"
- Current Opinion in Food Science: "Clinical Evidence on Potential Health Benefits of Berries"
- Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry: "Evidence for Anti-Cancer Properties of Blueberries: A Mini-Review"
- Nutrition: "Edible Berries: Bioactive Components and Their Effect on Human Health"
- Berry Health Benefits Network: "Fact Sheets"