Doctor’s Tip: These are berry good for you
We’re now on the ninth of Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen, foods we should be eating daily for optimal health, from his book “How Not to Die” — which, by the way, is now available in Spanish, as is the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”
There has been a theme running through the last several columns: We should be “eating the rainbow” because plant-based foods with intense colors have high levels of antioxidants. Rust is oxidation of metal, a cut apple turns brown because of oxidation (notice that the peel does not turn brown because that’s where most of the antioxidants are).
Oxidation in our bodies contributes to aging, cardiovascular disease and to cancer. Berries are intensely colored and therefore have lots of antioxidants. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of several books including “The End of Heart Disease,” flavonoid pigments in berries “affect pathways leading to changes in gene expression; detoxification; inhibition of cancer cell growth and proliferation; and inhibition of inflammation and other processes related to heart disease.”
Here’s what Dr. Greger says about some specific berries:
• Goji berries, available in bulk at Vitamin Cottage, have high concentrations of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” so try eating some in the evening. Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant pigment in gogi berries, protects against macular degeneration and may even treat it. Zeaxanthin is fat-soluble, so eating nuts or seeds with goji berries helps with absorption of this nutrient.
• Bilberries, blackberries, strawberries, aronia berries, elderberries, black raspberries and blueberries (especially the smaller “wild” varieties) all have an antioxidant-laden pigment called anthocyanin.
• Tart cherries (included by Dr. Greger under “berries”) have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to prevent and treat gout.
• Cranberries have been shown in the lab to suppress the growth of several types of human cancer cells, due to the pigment anthocyanin. Unsweetened cranberries are quite tart, so mix them with some other fruit.
Dr. Fuhrman says that blueberries, strawberries and blackberries have been shown in animal and human studies to slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline.
Dr. Greger’s favorite berries are acai berries, barberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries (sweet or tart), concord grapes, cranberries, goji berries, kumquats, mulberries, raspberries (black or red) and strawberries. He recommends a serving a day, one serving being ½ cup of fresh or frozen or ¼ cup dried. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal in the morning and/or have a large bowl of them for dessert after dinner, maybe with some unsweetened almond milk. Another way of enjoying berries is to simply blend frozen berries and eating them as “ice cream.”
In order to avoid insecticides and other toxins, it’s always best to buy organic, and due to the high surface area this is particularly important with berries. Often you can find fresh organic berries on sale in the summer at local grocery stores. At other times of the year, large bags of frozen blueberries can be found at Costco at a reasonable price, and frozen berries have the same nutritional value as fresh (I advise against the mixed berries at Costco because the blackberries in them sometimes taste moldy). Vitamin Cottage has smaller bags of various frozen berries including unsweetened cranberries and cherries.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.