Alberta Cancer Foundation

Sweet Berries, Strong Medicine

But their dewy, plump sweetness belies the fact that they pack a hefty nutritional punch. Berry season is coming, so think about grabbing the sunscreen and a water bottle and hitting a U-pick farm. It’s a great way to get a little exercise, and you come home with a pail of field-fresh goodness.
Most people are familiar with the fact that berries are chock full of vitamin C and are a good source of fibre. But the wonders only increase.

Berries, with their royal red, blue and purple colours, are packed with polyphenols, notably anthocyanidin, ellagic acid and proanthocyanidin. The role of antioxidants in cancer development and suppression is not well understood, but antioxidants can remove damage-causing free radicals from the body. Polyphenols also have other tumour-fighting properties, possibly derived from their ability to thwart angiogenesis, meaning the ability of cancer cells to build a network of blood vessels that encourage tumour development. Other studies suggest that some polyphenols can help synthesize hormones, preventing the elevated levels that could encourage hormone-sensitive tumours to grow.

Basically, all berries are good for you and they are about as versatile as they are tasty. Freeze berries of any kind to have them on hand for a multitude of culinary reasons. Toss some blackberries on a leafy green salad with a crisp vinaigrette. Nothing beats strawberries over vanilla ice cream. Saskatoons make a great addition to muffins or in a sauce for meat.

Get to know your favourites a little better:

Strawberries: With a pulp rich in ellagic acid, strawberry extracts have been able to counter the growth of tumour cells in a lab.

Blueberries: Their high in anthocyanidin count – they have more than any other fruit or veg – is what may give blueberries their antioxidant potential.

Cranberries: Aside from chocolate and cinnamon, cranberries and blueberries among the foods most densely packed with proanthocyanidins, another potent antioxidant and anti-angiogenic. But eat them – dried is fine – rather than reaching for the juice. The benefits are largely lost in juice form.