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  • Writer's pictureIrene

Berry, berry good reasons to eat our native Superfood!


When it comes to Superfoods we can be quick to fork out big bucks for some exotic plant from far, far away that promises to be the elixir of life. The stuff growing around us since the year dot is often overlooked in favour of the new kid in town! There is no official or legal definition for "Superfoods" but it has become a bit of a buzz word in the area of food and health. Under EU legislation the use of "Superfood" in food labelling is not allowed unless it is accompanied by an authorized health claim that explains to the consumer why the product is good for their health. Despite this, the term is still flaunted making some foods super attractive for those seeking super health. Goji berries, moringa, acai berries, matcha tea are some of the newly crowned Superfoods but we do not have to travel so far to find a food that is truly super and growing in our own backyards.


Blackberries have been with us for over 2000 years providing us with a source of food and medicine with its briars' protecting us from would-be marauders. Although their thorns may not have been enough to keep out the pillagers, their nutritional profile packs an impressive punch that ranks them among some of the most super of foods in the world. Along with other dark-skinned fruits such as blueberries, plums and cherries - blackberries contain exceptional amounts of anthocyanins - a group of antioxidants particularly beneficial for arthritic conditions. Pure cherry juice is now a popular and effective remedy for gout but back in the 18th century blackberries were also referred to as goutberries such was the high regard in which they were held among the inflamed aristocrats across Europe. What we know now is that anthocyanins are powerful anti-inflammatories that can dissolve uric acid crystals which build up inside the body, causing the gout symptoms of pain and inflammation. While cherries seem to have hogged the limelight, blackberries have a higher concentration of anthocyanins and can offer some seasonal relief for this common ailment.


The timing of the blackberry season reflects Nature's way of giving us what we need when we need it. Anthocyanins and other antioxidants found in blackberries are noted for protection against the harmful effects of UV sunlight. Lutein and Zeaxanthin have long been proven to protect our delicate eyes from macular degeneration and damage caused by sun rays and other sources of UV radiation. Blueberries are a well-known source of lutein and zeaxanthin but our native blackberries do the job just as well. All antioxidants found in Nature offer a wide range of anti-cancer and anti-aging properties, primarily by their ability to protect and repair our DNA from the daily onslaught of free radical damage - which is involved in the onset and progression of cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological diseases.


Tannins in blackberries help reduce intestinal inflammation, alleviate haemorrhoids and soothes the effects of diarrhoea. The gut also benefits from its fibre content of 8g per cup which amounts to more fibre than a cup of bran flakes. Unlike bran, the fibre in blackberries helps lower cholesterol too, making this a heart-friendly fruit relevant to a nation plagued with cardiovascular problems. Its sweetness comes from xylitol, a sugar alcohol found in the fruit fibre. This type of sugar is absorbed more slowly and does not cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels, making it a guilt-free treat for diabetics too. Since heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the top three killer diseases in our country it is no wonder blackberries are so prolific!


The leaves too have much to offer. Ancient Greeks were known to chew blackberry leaves to relieve bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. Native Americans (as did our own medicine folk) used them as a poultice for wounds, rashes and insect bites. Sore throats can be soothed by gargling blackberry leaf tea and women's woes were traditionally treated with blackberry juice, noted for its ability to regulate menstruation, support blood clotting and act as a muscle relaxant.


While the EU may hum and haw over the use of the term Superfood, we can delight that our own super food doesn't need a label or packaging - only a bucket, a clean hedgerow and time to ramble along the brambles gathering a timely gift from Mother Nature. If I wasn't writing about them I would be out there picking them right now!

Researched & Written by Irene x


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