Health nuts like me love to learn about the latest exotic “superfoods,” from wheatgrass to whey shakes. But sometimes, we all need a reminder that some of the most potent cures are actually hiding in plain sight, right in the produce aisle.
That’s the case with berries, at least—the brighter, the better. And all because of a class of polyphenolic pigments called anthocyanins. These compounds are responsible for giving berries their vibrant red, purple, or blue color.
But it’s the health benefits they bring to the table that I want to talk about today. And more specifically, the benefits to your blood sugar and your cholesterol levels.
Better blood sugar and cholesterol with berries
As part of a recent study, researchers reviewed data from nearly 20 randomized trials on anthocyanin supplementation. And the results revealed berries scored BIG when it came to battling insulin resistance—one of the key features of metabolic syndrome.
But the good news didn’t end there. The berries also had a measurable positive impact on total and LDL cholesterol levels. Particularly in people taking doses above 300 mg for longer than 12 weeks.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Because it turns out the average American consumes just 12.5 mg of anthocyanins per day. Well below the amounts that deliver the biggest benefits.
Which means berries need to be making more regular appearances on everyone’s menu. And not just for their heart and blood sugar benefits either.
Four more amazing anthocyanin benefits…
So what exactly will two to three servings of berries a day buy you?
1. They help you breathe easier.
In one study, researchers measured how much air a group of volunteers could exhale in a second. They found that the berry lovers had a 22.5 percent slower lung function decline than their berry shunning peers. And a 37.9 percent slower decline in how much air they could exhale after taking a deep breath.
2. They fight inflammation.
Anthocyanins mop up free radicals and tamp down oxidative stress. This makes berries the perfect choice for fighting inflammation—and just about every major disease in the book, by extension.
3. They ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Several polyphenols in berries offer brain-boosting benefits and natural protection against cognitive decline. But anthocyanins are among the most powerful.
4. They boost “good” cholesterol, too.
The new study showed berries are a powerful ally for improving total cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol levels. But earlier research revealed that the anthocyanins found in berries could also raise your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol by as much as 20 percent. And, of course, HDL is every bit as critical to your heart’s health.
So go ahead and add more purple grapes, blueberries, strawberries, currants and even eggplants and red cabbage to your menu. If the produce is jewel-toned, rest assured it’s worth its weight in gold.