Health benefits of raspberries
With their rich color, sweet juicy taste, and antioxidant power, it is no wonder raspberries remain one of the world's most consumed berries.
Raspberries can range in color from the popular red and black varieties to purple, yellow, or golden. Each color berry has a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
This article will look at the health benefits of the most widely consumed red raspberry. It provides a nutritional breakdown of a raspberry, suggests ways to incorporate more raspberries into the diet, and lists the potential health risks of consuming raspberries.
Here are some key points about raspberries. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Some researchers believe raspberries hold a number of health benefits
- Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants
- A certain component in raspberries may protect the eye from sun damage
- There is limited evidence that raspberry ketones help increase weight loss
Raspberries can range in color with each color berry having a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.
A high consumption of plant foods, such as raspberries, appears to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. It can also promote a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Several animal studies have shown a positive correlation between intake of flavonoids in berries and memory improvement. They may also decrease the decline in cognitive ability related to aging.
A recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition associated the intake of flavonoid-rich foods like raspberries with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. They stated that even small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods may be beneficial.
One group of flavonoids in particular—anthocyanins—have been shown to suppress the inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.
Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, led an 18-year study with Harvard Public School of Health that tracked 93,600 women aged 25-42 years.
She states that their study was able to show "for the first time that a regular, sustained intake of anthocyanins from berries can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women."
The potassium in raspberries supports heart health as well. In one study, participants who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 milligrams per day).5
Raspberries contain powerful antioxidants that work against free radicals, inhibiting tumor growth and decreasing inflammation in the body. Those same potent polyphenols that protect against heart disease also help ward off or slow many types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate, and colon.
Any plant food with skin has lots of fiber, and raspberries have a lot of skin. Eating high-fiber foods help keep blood sugar stable. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipid, and insulin levels.
Digestion, detox, and disease prevention
The fiber and water content in raspberries help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract. Adequate fiber promotes regularity, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation; consequently, this decreases the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
Women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should aim for about 30 grams. One cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of fiber.
Easy on the eyes
Foods high in vitamin C, such as raspberries, have been shown to help keep eyes healthy by providing protection against UV light damage.
Raspberries also contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin, which filters out harmful blue light rays and is thought to play a protective role in eye health and possibly ward off damage from macular degeneration.
A higher intake of all fruits (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of, and progression of, age-related macular degeneration.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of raspberries (about 123 grams) contains 64 calories, 1.5 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbohydrate (including 8 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar).
Eating one cup of raw raspberries will provide 54 percent of your vitamin C needs, 12 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of folate, 5 percent of vitamin E, iron, and potassium, and 41 percent of manganese needs for the day as well as lesser amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.
Raspberries contain the antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline.
Raspberries are also a good source of polyphenols such as anthocyanin, flavonols, and ellagitannins, which decrease oxidative damage from free radicals and have shown potential in animal and human studies for preventing or reducing risk of chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease.
Keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal.
Raspberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, and in jellies, syrups, and jams. Most raspberry jellies, spreads, juices, and wine have added sugars, which tack on additional calories.
When looking for jellies or jams, go for all-fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.
Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried raspberries, which may also have added sugars.
People who tend to eat at least three servings of berries per week see the most benefits. The best way to eat raspberries is fresh, right out of your hand (after washing of course).
Here are some other tips to help increase your raspberry consumption:
- Always keep a bag of frozen raspberries on hand for adding to smoothies and oatmeal
- Forgo the syrupy sweetness of canned fruit cocktail and make your own fresh fruit cocktail with raspberries, pineapple, sliced peaches, and strawberries
- Add raspberries, grapes, and walnuts to your chicken salad
- Slice raspberries and add them to plain Greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar and sliced almonds
- Top whole grain waffles or pancakes with fresh raspberries or fold them into muffins and sweet breads
- Blend raspberries in a food processor with a little water and use as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods
- Mix raspberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and goat cheese
Each year, the Environmental Working Group produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Raspberries are 23rd on the list of produce that they suggest should be bought in its organic form to ensure a lower risk of pesticide exposure.
But don't worry if you can't find organic; the nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown (non-organic) produce far outweighs the risk of not eating the produce at all.
Of note, raspberries in supplement form are also being studied for their ability to help with weight loss and combat obesity. Research remains in the early stages, and there have been no human studies to date to prove the effectiveness of supplements like raspberry ketones and extracts, which often have stimulants like hoodia and caffeine added.
There is no doubt that incorporating low-calorie, high nutrient foods like raspberries as part of an overall healthy diet will support weight loss, but the ability of concentrated formulas in the form of a supplement to help with weight loss is uncertain at best.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.