Within our bodies millions of processes occur every day, such as turning the foods we eat into energy. These processes require oxygen. Byproducts of using oxygen are called oxidants, often referred to as “free radicals”. Free radicals can also be introduced to our bodies through external sources such as tobacco smoke, pollution, and exposure to the sun. In the same way that oxidation can cause rust on the surface of some objects, free radicals can cause damage to cell walls, cell structures and even the genetic material of a cell. If the genetic material of a cell is attacked, this can lead to changes in the body’s DNA “genetic blue print” and has been linked to a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease.1
Antioxidants work to deactivate free radicals by binding to oxidants, which prevents the damage from occurring. Diets high in antioxidant-rich foods, that is, foods containing vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, have been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. As a result, current national guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease recommend choosing foods rich in antioxidants.2
Berries contain a variety of antioxidants, which help keep free radicals under control. Anthocyanins, ellagic acid and resveratrol are types of antioxidants found in an assortment of berries. One study showed that blueberries, blackberries and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates.3
Studies suggest that the antioxidants in berries may help lower inflammation. Long-term inflammation arising from chronic stress, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy food choices can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity,4 so berries are really a big deal in counteracting those negative effects! But that’s not all that berries can help do.
Test-tube and human studies suggest that berries may protect cells from high blood sugar levels, help increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar and insulin response to high-carb meals. Importantly, these effects appear to occur in both healthy people and those with insulin resistance.5
In one study of healthy women, eating 5 ounces (150 grams) of puréed strawberries or mixed berries with bread led to a 24–26% reduction in insulin levels, compared to consuming the bread alone.6 Moreover, in a six-week study, obese people with insulin resistance who drank a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than those who consumed berry-free smoothies.7
Berries are also an excellent source of soluble fiber, which is known to be important for slowing down the movement of food through the digestive tract. This slower movement helps us feel full for a longer period of time. Ideally, this may help us eat less and make weight management easier. One study found that doubling fiber intake could help absorb up to 130 fewer calories per day.8
Unsurprisingly, berries are considered heart-healthy food that may help lower LDL levels and help protect the bad cholesterol from becoming oxidized, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. In a controlled study of obese people, those eating 1.5 ounces (50 grams) of freeze-dried blueberries for 8 weeks noticed a 28% reduction in their oxidized LDL levels.9
Berries are highly nutritious, may provide a variety of health benefits, and are easy to incorporate into an Active Wellness nutritional plan! Kenzen® Super Ciaga® powder makes it even simpler if you find it hard to access fresh berries. Simply combine it with PiMag® water or blend into smoothies for an energy and antioxidant boost!
To celebrate love, friendship and Valentine’s Day, Nikken has three “Heart of Nikken” packs available through February 28. Each pack contains three extraordinary heart-healthy nutritional supplements—Kenzen® Bergisterol®, Kenzen® Super Ciaga® and Kenzen® Omega Green + DHA — plus one piece of magnetic jewelry, exclusive to Nikken. You have your choice of the pack with a silver Kenko Perfect Link II necklace, a gold tone Kenko Perfect Link II necklace or a Kenko Heart Set.