Power Food: Raspberries

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Raspberries belong to the rose (Rosaceae) family of plants, which houses some of the world’s most beloved fruits including apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, loquats, peaches, pears, plums, and strawberries. Almonds also belong to this diverse family of plants. AmongU.S.consumers, raspberries are the third most popular berry and follow right after strawberries and blueberries. There are over 200 species of raspberries, all belonging to the scientific genus called Rubus. Fortunately, however, many of the raspberry species that are grown commercially can be placed into one of three basic groups: red raspberries, black raspberries, and purple raspberries.

What’s New and Beneficial About Raspberries

One of the most fascinating new areas of raspberry research involves the potential for raspberries to improve management of obesity. Although this research is in its early stages, scientists now know that metabolism in our fat cells can be increased by phytonutrients found in raspberries, especially rheosmin (also called raspberry ketone). By increasing enzyme activity, oxygen consumption, and heat production in certain types of fat cells, raspberry phytonutrients like rheosmin may be able to decrease risk of obesity as well as risk of fatty liver. In addition to these benefits, rheosmin can decrease activity of a fat-digesting enzyme released by our pancreas called pancreatic lipase. This decrease in enzyme activity may result in less digestion and absorption of fat.

Recent research on organic raspberries has now shown organic raspberries to be significantly higher in total antioxidant capacity than non-organic raspberries. Raspberries in the study were grown on farms inMarylandthat had been previously certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A series of tests involving free radical scavenging all provided the same results: organic raspberries outperformed their non-organic counterparts in terms of their antioxidant activity. This greater antioxidant capacity was associated with the greater levels of total phenols and total anthocyanins found in organic versus non-organic raspberries. While there are many good reasons to purchase organic versus organic foods of all kinds, this study makes it clear that these reasons specifically hold true for raspberries in a big-time way.

You’ll get significantly more antioxidant support by purchasing raspberries that are fully ripe. Recent studies have measured the total phenolic content, total flavonoid content, and anthocyanin content of raspberries harvested at varying stages of ripeness (from 50% to 100% maturity) and greatest overall antioxidant benefits were associated with full ripeness of the berries. Although it’s possible for raspberries to ripen after harvest, this fruit can be highly perishable and can mold quite easily at room temperature. So your most risk-free approach for getting optimal antioxidant benefits from raspberries is to purchase them at full maturity, keep them refrigerated at all times at temperatures between 35-39F (2-4C), and consume them very quickly (within 1-2 days after purchase).

Anti-cancer benefits of raspberries have long been attributed to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. In animal studies involving breast, cervical, colon, esophageal and prostate cancers, raspberry phytonutrients have been shown to play an important role in lowering oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and thereby altering the development or reproduction of cancer cells. But new research in this area has shown that the anti-cancer benefits of raspberries may extend beyond their basic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory aspects. Phytonutrients in raspberries may also be able to change the signals that are sent to potential or existing cancer cells. In the case of existing cancer cells, phytonutrients like ellagitannins in raspberries may be able to decrease cancer cell numbers by sending signals that encourage the cancer cells to being a cycle of programmed cell death (apoptosis). In the case of potentially but not yet cancerous cells, phytonutrients in raspberries may be able to trigger signals that encourage the non-cancerous cells to remain non-cancerous.

Health Benefits

Raspberries provide numerous health benefits including:

Antioxidant support

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Obesity and Blood Sugar Benefits

Anti-cancer benefits

Raspberries are an outstanding source of phytonutrients, and provide us with dozens of anthocyanins, flavonoids, stilbenoids, phenolic acids, tannins and lignans. They are an unusually concentrated source of ellagitannins (like ellagic acid), cyanidins, and pelargonidins. Raspberries are an excellent source of digestive health-promoting fiber as well as antioxidant-promoting manganese and vitamin C. They are a very good source of bone-building vitamin K and a good source of heart-healthy magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, vitamin E, and potassium.

¬†reference: The World’s Healthiest Foods, 2011

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