Blackberry is a famous functional food that has cosmetic, nutritive and medicinal value. It is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals and it contains a number of health promoting compounds such as acids, flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, tannins and glycosides that possess anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal and anti-viral activities. Besides providing a number of health benefits, blackberries are an important ingredient in fruit preserves, jams, jellies, bakery products and desserts.
Health Benefits of Blackberries
Blackberry is one such irresistible fruit that contains the goodness of a variety of nutrients and antioxidants. Such a composition makes it extremely healthy and beneficial. Recently, a lot of light has been thrown on the health benefits of blackberries and some of it includes:
- Blackberries help in the management of plasma glucose level and have anti-hyperglycemic properties.
- They boost immune system
- Reduce inflammation and prevent infections.
- Besides this, blackberry has emerged to be an amazing food for the gut.
Let’s have a look at complete nutrient profile of blackberry:
Nutrients in Blackberry
Blackberry is not an energy-dense fruit and contains fewer calories. This makes it beneficial for individuals who want to lose weight. Like other fruits, it has a low fat content. Besides this, blackberry is a rich source of dietary fiber that makes it beneficial for individuals with high cholesterol level and type-2 diabetes mellitus. It is a good source of various vitamins such as carotenoids, folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin C, vitamin K and it contains a small amount of vitamin E too. Furthermore, blackberry contains a variety of minerals such as potassium, copper, calcium, magnesium and zinc. The sweet taste of this fruit is due to the presence of natural sugars in it such as fructose, glucose and sucrose.
Rich in Phenolic Acids & Flavonoids
Phenolic acids are plant metabolites that fight against oxidative stress and reduces the risk of diseases associated with it. Various phenolic acids have been identified in blackberry, these include:
- ELLAGIC ACID
- GALLIC ACID
- CAFFEIC ACID
- COUMARIC ACID
Flavonoids present in blackberry include:
- EPICATECHIN GALLATE
These flavonoids protect against various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and so on. The presence of so many health-promoting compounds in blackberry makes is a therapeutic fruit.
Rich in Carotenoids
Carotenoids are natural pigments that occur in blackberries. These carotenoids possess immune-boosting properties and thus, they keep infections at bay. Carotenoids present in blackberries include:
Research observed that the content of these carotenoids decreased in over-ripened blackberries. In order to reap the health benefits of these carotenoids, one should consume fully ripe blackberries.
Rich in Antioxidants
Blackberries are a great source of antioxidants. These antioxidant have strong radical scavenging property, thus it protects against a number of diseases. Blackberry contains high concentration of anthocyanins, carotenoids, phenolic compounds and ascorbic acid that possess antioxidant property. However, it is noted that the concentration of some antioxidants such as vitamin C decreases in over-ripe blackberries. Therefore, it is very important to consume blackberries in their ripe stage.
Blackberry has a huge name in the clinical setting and many scientific observations have found positive effect of blackberry on overall health. Here is detailed information about therapeutic benefits of blackberry:
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
It has been claimed by many researches that blackberry is an anti-diabetic agent that helps in lowering plasma glucose level in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Individuals with diabetes usually have high levels of oxidative stress. Research has found that blackberry is extremely rich in antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and reduce the levels of oxidative stress. This further helps to prevent sudden spike in the plasma glucose levels and keeps it under control.
Several scientific observations even found that blackberry extracts play a beneficial role in delaying the onset of diabetic complications, especially diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves). Such a plasma glucose lowering effect of blackberry is attributed to the presence of ANTHOCYANINS, ELLAGIC ACID, ELLAGITANNINS and FLAVONOLS. These bioactive compounds inhibit the accumulation of SORBITOL and are able to relieve diabetic complications. Therefore, eating fresh blackberries may help in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
A very interesting research published in 2008 observed the effects of blackberry on antioxidant status of the body. Research showed that drinking blackberry juice prepared with water or defatted milk increased the level of ascorbic acid in the body, which is a potent antioxidant. Individuals who consumed such a juice had a higher antioxidant capacity. Such an effect was attributed to the presence of anthocyanins in blackberries. Blackberry juice further increased the level of antioxidant enzyme in the body such as catalase. All these properties make blackberry juice an excellent immune-boosting beverage.
Blackberry extracts works like an anti-anxiety agent that helps one to relax and calm down and thus, fights anxiety. A research showed that as the dose of blackberry extract increased, its anti-anxiety effect also increased and vice versa. Thus, consuming blackberries can help individuals to overcome anxiety disorders and depression. Furthermore, blackberries also increased mental alertness to some extent. Besides this, blackberry extract did not have any sedative effect and was not able to induce sleep. As compared to anti-anxiety medications, the best part about blackberries is that it comes without any side effects. Anti-anxiety medications may lead to addiction and side effects but blackberry is completely safe
Prevents Food Borne Infections
Research examined an effective role of blackberry against the inhibition of food borne bacterial pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella Typhimurium and L. monocytogenes. Furthermore, blackberry also improved the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. A study observed that a small amount of blackberry juice can inhibit the growth of foodborne pathogens and stimulate the growth of gut-healthy bacteria. Such an inhibitory effect of blackberry is due to the presence of polyphenolic components in them. Out of all the polyphenolic compounds, ellagitannins had the strongest inhibitory activity against foodborne pathogens. These polyphenolic components bind to the outer membrane of bacteria and inactivate their harmful mechanism. In addition to this, blackberry juice also stimulates the growth of probiotic bacteria and creates a healthy environment in the gut.
Prevents Gastric Inflammation
Gastric inflammation may increase the risk of gastric ulcers and gastritis. Ellagitannins and ellagic acid conjugates are two powerful polyphenols that help in reducing gastric inflammation and are present in very few fruits and vegetables. Blackberry is one such fruit that contains significant amount of ellagitannins and ellagic acid. These polyphenols have great anti-inflammatory properties.
Research has showed that blackberries are capable of protecting the stomach against gastric lesions. As compared to raspberry, the anti-ulcer effect of blackberry was higher. Consuming blackberry also increases the level of antioxidant enzymes present in the body such as superoxide dismutase and catalase. These antioxidant enzymes further protected the inner lining of the stomach and reduced inflammation.
In other words, it can be said that blackberry inhibits the action of Helicobacter pylori (causes gastric ulcer) and reactive oxygen species in inflammatory conditions. Such an immunomodulatory effect of blackberry can protect against peptic ulcer.
Research has found that blackberry is a very effective remedy in the treatment of diarrhea. The anti-diarrheal effects of blackberry are attributed to the presence of volatile oils, tannins, organic acid and ascorbic acids. All these health-promoting components soothe the inflamed mucosa and help in quick healing.
Several scientific studies have found that blackberry has medicinal properties that help to relieve abdominal pain and treats gut infections effectively. Research found that blackberry expels parasitic worms out of the body and thus, protects the body against infection (anthelminitic activity). Such an activity in blackberry is attributed to the presence of phytochemicals such as flavonoids, tannins, saponins and sesquiterpenes. These phytochemicals have properties similar to anthelminitic drugs, which help in the treatment of gut problems caused by parasites. It has also shown to relieve pain and it works similar to an anti-spasmodic drug. Blackberry helps to relax spontaneous contractions and thus, has a relaxing effect on the gut. It also throws out all the toxins from the body and thus, protects the gut.
Blackberry is an abundant source of polyphenols, flavonoids and antioxidants that prevents oxidative stress by scavenging the harmful free radicals. Such a property of blackberry helps to kill the cancer cells and prevents their spread to other healthy cells of the body. It also reduces the pro-inflammatory markers and overall inflammation.
Research has showed that individuals with cancer who consumed anthocyanin rich fruits had reduced oxidative damage to the DNA and improved the status of natural antioxidant enzyme system in the body. In addition to this, blackberries contain approximately 80% moisture. Removal of this moisture that is seen in case of dried blackberries may lead to loss of some important phytochemicals. Therefore, individuals with cancer should consume whole and fresh berries in order to reap its benefits.
Different Ways to Enjoy Blackberry
Eating fresh and whole blackberries is an amazing way to get some important antioxidants but there are other ways also to enjoy this delicious fruit:
- Eat whole and fresh blackberries
- Enjoy the goodness of blackberries all throughout the year in dried and frozen form
- Make some refreshing blackberry juice
- Add some blackberries to your ice-cream
- Enjoy summers with amazing blackberry milkshake
- Blackberry smoothie is another way to enjoy the goodness of blackberry
- Make your own blackberry jam
- Blackberry marmalade is a great dessert
- Blackberry yogurt is completely irresistible
- Blackberry sauce is an amazing accompaniment for pancakes
- Add some fresh blackberries to your delicious tart
- Kids and even adults will love blackberry jelly
- Enjoy your cup of blackberry tea.
How to Select Blackberries
Selection of right kind of fruit is very important. Here are some points that you should keep in mind while purchasing blackberry:
- Buy fresh and juicy blackberries and carefully select the ripe ones.
- Watch out for bruised and mouldy blackberries.
- Blackberries should be plump and firm.
- Fresh blackberries have a very sweet aroma.
- Pay special attention to the color of blackberries. Fully ripe blackberries have a purplish-black color and have a beautiful shiny appearance.
- Mushed or rotten blackberries must be immediately separated from the fresh ones.
How to Store Blackberry
- As soon as you get blackberries home, store them in a cool place. Avoid direct contact with the sunlight for a long period of time.
- Wash the blackberries just before eating them. Storing washed blackberries may increase their chances of getting spoiled due to its high moisture content.
- Blackberries are juicy, washing and rinsing them directly under running tap water may crush them under pressure.
- The best way to wash blackberries is to place them in a colander and dip it in cold water. Now in the water, gently swish the colander and allow the berries to drain.
- Blackberries that are less firm and soft should be consumed within a day. Do not store it for long period. Storing will deteriorate the quality of blackberry and it will no longer be palatable.
- Firm and ripe blackberries can be stored at room temperature in a cool place away from the rays of the sun.
- If you want to store the blackberries for 4 to 5 days then place them in the refrigerator unwashed and uncovered in a dish.
- If you want to store, the blackberries for a longer period then freeze them. To freeze blackberries, place them on a baking tray and spread them out. Make sure that blackberries do not touch each other.
- Once they are frozen, transfer them to an airtight bag or a container. You can easily store frozen blackberries for 2 to 3 months.
- You can also add sugar to blackberries just before freezing them. This will keep its texture intact and will help them to retain the sweet taste. Wash the berries and pat them dry with the help of a clean towel. Now add some sugar and gently toss the berries till it is completely coated with sugar. Now freeze these sweetened blackberries. Such sweetened berries can be stored for up to 9 months.
Fruit Description, History & Origin of Blackberry
The botanical name of blackberry is Rubus fructicosus and it is a very popular shrub which has more than 40 species. It is a perennial, bushy, deciduous, thorny and prickly shrub; however some varieties are without thorns. It is believed that blackberry is native to Armenia and today, it is widely cultivated in different areas of Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Romans and Greeks used blackberries and its other parts as medicines whereas Native Americans used blackberries both as food and as medicine. Blackberries are also known as bly, brambleberry, bramble and Brummel.
Blackberries are consumed and loved globally for its delicious taste, flavour, pleasant mouth-feel, beautiful appearance and for various health benefits that it provides. Earlier blackberries were mainly used in the preparation of wines and cordials. Today, it is consumed in raw or cooked form as well as it is consumed in the form of syrups, jams, jellies and so on. Visual appearance and color of blackberry is an important parameter, which you must keep in mind while purchasing. Darker the color, higher is the concentration of bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins.
On ripening, the content of anthocyanins increases tremendously. Such an increase also causes the color of blackberries to change from green to purplish-black. In addition to this, unripe berries have a lower potential to scavenge free radicals and their antioxidative potential is poor.