Ingredients and Uses

Bonkers Over Blackberries: Benefits, Tips, And Trivia

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Ranelle Kirchner, MS, LDN, RD, CDE
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Bonkers Over Blackberries: Benefits, Tips, And Trivia Hyderabd040-395603080 May 20, 2019

What is black, bumpy to touch, and found in the wilderness in summers? No, it’s not a centipede! It is the blackberry fruit! Blackberries are my current obsession because they support beautiful skin, strong bones, and sharp memory.

Blackberries have a loaded phytonutritional profile and can be cooked in several different ways. These versatile berries are one of the longest living plant species. Want to know more such mind-blowing facts on the bramble? Read on!

More About Blackberries

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) is native to the European continent and a common sight in the British counties. It is an ancient member of herbal medicine. Blackberry variants are now widely grown in the North American countries and the Indian subcontinent and are known for their sharp taste and high nutritional value (1).

Blackberry is a perennial shrub. It has a sprawling, woody, and thorny stem with dark green hairy leaves that have uneven margins. The flowers are white to pale pink, and the fruits are the fleshy blackberries. The fruits and other parts of the shrub are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, tannins, anthocyanins, and similar phytonutrients (1).

Based on their growth requirements, several variants of blackberries are identified. Check them out in the section below.

What Are The Different Variants Of Blackberries?

Some blackberry shrubs trail along the surface while some grow erect. Trailing blackberries have canes that are not self-supporting, so they grow as creepers using a trellis system. Erect blackberries have stiff, arching canes that are somewhat self-supporting, so they might grow as climbers.

Initially, the plant grows rapidly as a primocane – only with leaves across its length. In the second year, the plant produces flowers as a floricane. Under favorable conditions, the floricane develops green fruit pods. These mature from green to red, and finally to rich black (1).

In blackberries, you have the semi-erect, erect, primocane-fruiting, and trailing varieties. These are a few members of each variety:

Semi-erect: Triple Crown, Chester, and Hull
Erect: Illini-Hardy, Arapaho, Apache, and Ouachita
Primocane-fruiting: Prime Jan, Prime Jim, Prime-Ark 45, and Prime-Ark Freedom
Trailing: Marionberry, Boysenberry, Loganberry, Youngberry, and Thornless Evergreen

The variants are specific to climatic conditions. Their number and diversity keep increasing.

But what they all have in common is a long list of health benefits. What can blackberries do for you? What makes them therapeutically significant? How can you enjoy their benefits? We’ve got all these questions answered for you.

All you need to do is scroll down and keep reading. So, here we go!

How Can Blackberries Benefit Your Health?

1. Mouthwash: Kill Dental Pathogens And Protect Gums

Mouthwash: Kill Dental Pathogens And Protect Gums Pinit

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Blackberry extract can double up as a refreshing and protective mouthwash. Blackberries have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The antimicrobial effect was found to be specific to certain groups of microbes that cause periodontitis and dental caries (F. nucleatum, P. gingivalis, and S. mutans) (2).

Although the mechanism behind this action is yet to be understood, a few studies propose that berry polyphenols are key components. The anthocyanins probably bind to the ions required for bacterial sustenance. This deprives the microbes of the essential nutrients, thereby killing them (2).

Blackberry extract can be added to chewing gums after further research. It may be a cheaper and more effective option to control the formation of oral biofilms and other chronic dental ailments (2).

2. Neuroprotectors: Maintain Brain Health And Cognition

Wild blackberries are rich in vitamins C, A, K, folate, and potassium. They also have abundant polyphenols and tannins. These nutrients and phytochemicals protect your neurons (brain cells) from oxidative injury (3).

These berries improved cognition, behavior, and motor neuron coordination in aged rats (3). A 2% blackberry-rich diet enhanced the memory, according to another rat study conducted in 2009 (4).

The active components in blackberries are anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant in nature. They can, hence, decelerate age-related neurodegenerative disorders and memory loss (5).

3. Anticancer Agents: May Prevent Cancer And DNA Damage

Blackberries are known for their antioxidant profile. Free radicals, including peroxide and superoxide ions, are converted into less carcinogenic intermediates by berry juices made of blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, etc. (6).

Blackberries also contain free radical-scavenging enzymes. Fair amounts of essential antioxidant enzymes – catalase, glutathione reductase, and ascorbate peroxidase – were identified in strawberries and blackberries. This could mean protection from DNA damage inflicted by the carcinogens (6).

The antioxidants in blackberries help reduce the risk of breast, cervical, and esophageal cancers (1). However, there is insufficient evidence about their effect on prostate cancer (6).

4. Fat Burners: Curb Body Fat Accumulation And Obesity

Blackberries, or any dark-colored berries, are synonymous with anthocyanins. These dark colored pigment molecules can suppress fat accumulation and possibly trigger weight loss.

Anthocyanins like cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G), flavan-3-ols, and hydroxycinnamic acids induce changes in the expression levels of adipocytokines in your adipose tissue. The result of this is suppression in fat accumulation and reduction of lipid (LDL) synthesis in the liver and white adipose tissue (7).

However, there is limited research on the anti-obesity effects of blackberries. Further studies might help us understand the mechanism of anthocyanins in lipid-lowering activity.

5. Anti-inflammatory Agents: Reduce Inflammation In Your Body

Extensive research proves the anti-inflammatory capacity of blackberries. The polyphenols, especially anthocyanins, counter different kinds of pro-inflammatory compounds in your body.

For instance, nitric oxide promotes inflammation and triggers endothelial dysfunction in your body. Interestingly, blackberry extracts can inhibit the production and regulate the levels of cellular nitric oxide (8).

6. Cardiovascular Health Monitors: Protect And Maintain Your Heart

Cardiovascular Health Monitors Protect And Maintain Your Heart Pinit

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LDL (bad cholesterol) accumulation is one of the top risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). LDL molecules interact with free radicals and form atherosclerotic plaques in your blood vessels (9), (8).

Thanks to the antioxidant capacity of blackberries, free radicals may be decreased. Thus, hypertension and CVDs like atherosclerosis can be impacted (9).

Studies also indicate that berry flavonoids reduce platelet aggregation in LDL accumulated sites. They decrease the production of superoxide ions (free radicals) in platelets and protect your vasculature from wearing off (9).

High-on-berry!

  • Blackberries may relieve menstrual cramps, labor pain, and childbirth complications. The vitamin K in blackberries is responsible for these benefits. It acts as a muscle relaxant and aids blood clotting (10).
  • Hippocrates, the legendary Greek physician, recommended blackberry stems and leaves soaked in white wine as an astringent to heal wounds and tone down inflammation (11).
  • Since they may relax muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation, blackberries may ease digestion and constipation. But, this application has not been universally supported.
  • Blackberries may help you achieve younger-looking skin. The phytochemicals in these berries repair damaged skin, fight wrinkles, breakouts, and fine lines, and give you fresh, spotless, and glowing skin.

7. Bone Boosters: Preserve And Protect Bone Mineral Density

Post-menopausal bone loss is becoming more prevalent in today’s women. You could blame the lifestyle, quality of living, pollution, or the chemical stress our bodies are put through.

Eating food rich in anthocyanins can slow down the bone mineral loss to some extent. Cyanidin-3-glucoside in blackberries is one such anthocyanin that can effectively decrease the amount of these free radicals. A rat study reported that a 5% cyanidin-3-glucoside rich blackberry diet improved the bone mineral density of the tibial, vertebral, and femoral bones (12).

The anti-inflammatory properties of these berries limit the release of IL-12 (pro-inflammatory compound) in bone marrow-derived dendritic cells, according to another murine study (13).

Berries can thus help in conserving the balance between the bone-forming osteoblasts and bone-destructing osteoclasts.

No wonder these berries were used as an herbal medicine by the Greeks!

But what in the berries are/is responsible for all these benefits? That’s what the next section is about. Scroll on!

Nutritional Profile Of Blackberries

Nutritional value Of Blackberries
NutrientUnitServing size (1 cup, 144 g)
Waterg126.94
Energykcal62
EnergykJ261
Proteing2
Total lipid (fat)g0.71
Ashg0.53%
Carbohydrate, by differenceg13.84
Fiber, total dietaryg7.6
Sugars, totalg7.03
Minerals
Calcium, Camg42
Iron, Femg0.89
Magnesium, Mgmg29
Phosphorus, Pmg32
Potassium, Kmg232
Sodium, Namg1
Zinc, Znmg0.76
Copper, Cumg0.238
Manganese, Mnmg0.930
Selenium, Seµg0.6
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg30.2
Thiaminmg0.029
Riboflavinmg0.037
Niacinmg0.930
Pantothenic acidmg0.397
Vitamin B-6mg0.043
Folate, totalµg36
Folate, foodµg36
Folate, DFEµg36
Choline, totalmg12.2
Betainemg0.4
Vitamin A, RAEmg16
Carotene, betaµg184
Vitamin A, IUIU308
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg170
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1.68
Tocopherol, betamg<0.06
Tocopherol, gammamg1.93
Tocopherol, deltamg1.30
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)mg28.5
Anthocyanidins
Cyanidinmg143.9
Pelargonidinmg0.6
Peonidinmg0.3
Flavan-3-ols
(+)-Catechinmg53.4
(-)-Epigallocatechinmg0.3
(-)-Epicatechinmg6.7
(-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallatemg1.0
Flavonols
Kaempferol /td>mg0.4
Myricetinmg1.0
Quercetinmg5.2
Proanthocyanidin
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg6.4
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg3.0
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg10.5
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg6.1
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg2.2

Blackberries are storehouses of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and folate, potassium, minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, sugars, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (1).

Blackberries have an exotic phytochemical profile and are full of antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory compounds. These include alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, glycosides, terpenoids, sterols, saponins, organic acids, tannins, and volatile oils (1).

Flavonols like kaempferol-glucoside, quercetin-glucoside, rutin, myricetin-glucoside and anthocyanins including cyanidin-3-glucoside, cyanidin-3-rutinoside, pelargonidin-3-glucoside, peonidin-3-glucoside are present in blackberries (14).

Phenolic acids like ellagic acid, ellagitannins (sanguiin and lambertianin C), gallic acid, and coumaric acid also contribute to the antioxidant potential of blackberries (14).

Now you know why/how blackberries have a whopping ORAC (antioxidant potential per 100 g) score of 2036 units!

The complex numbers and names make blackberries sound like a bitter-tasting medicine. Don’t they? But, on the contrary, fresh and properly stored blackberries taste delicious.

Here are a few tips for buying and storing blackberries the right way. You can come up with your own maintenance routine, though. Take a look (15)!

How To Pick And Store Blackberries The Right Way

  • When out for shopping, look for plump, firm, deeply colored berries.
  • If the berries look yellow-orange, they might have a fungal infestation. Avoid bruised, pitted, discolored, and oozing berries.
  • Wash them thoroughly under clean water, dry them with a paper towel, and eat right away. Or, you could cover them (without washing) and store in the refrigerator.
  • Freshly picked berries should stay for about seven days in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can also freeze them.
  • To freeze, layer a tray or a suitable wide container with a cookie sheet or butter paper. Arrange the berries at a good distance from each other on the cookie sheet tray and place in the deep freezer.
  • Once they’re frozen, put the berries in a freezer bag and store! This way, the blackberries won’t stick to one another.

If you are clueless about what to do with the blackberries in your kitchen or freezer, you can try these options.

Quick And Simple Ways To Serve Blackberries

via GIPHY

  • Pack a few blackberries along with some nuts for a filling and quick snack-on-the-go.
  • Blend a handful of blackberries with milk and fruits of your choice for a yummy smoothie.
  • Add a few frozen or fresh berries to your bowl of whole grain cereal to make it interesting and tasty.
  • Give your salad a tangy twist by tossing a few blackberries in it.
  • Take your frozen yogurt or ice creams to a whole new level – just eat them with crispy frozen blackberries!

Aren’t you drooling just at the thought of these berry combos?

Hope these ideas leave you pumped up about including blackberries in your daily cooking.

But before you go blackberry shopping this week, let me share a few side effects of them.

Do Blackberries Have Any Side Effects Or Associated Risks?

Hardly a few adverse effects have supporting evidence. What is often brought to notice is the interaction of berry polyphenols with body substrates. The polyphenols (flavonols, anthocyanins, ellagitannins, etc.) of most berries inhibit the activity of digestive enzymes (16).

The anthocyanins inhibit starch-metabolizing alpha-glucosidase activity. The ellagitannins and other polyphenols together inhibit alpha-amylase, gastrointestinal lipase, and protease enzymes. Such interference can have mild to severe undesirable effects in your body (16).

Since these effects have not been studied and characterized well, it is difficult to chalk preventive measures and permissible intake limits for blackberries.

In A Nutshell…

Blackberries are a therapeutic treat and a beautiful addition to your kitchen garden. In addition to taste, these berries deliver potent antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential dietary fiber to your body. Try including blackberries in your meals and snacks and see your immunity and memory improve.

Liked this article? Please use the comments section below to write your feedback, suggestions, and relevant queries.

References

  1. Rubus fruticosus (blackberry) use as an herbal medicine” Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Antibacterial Effects of Blackberry Extract Target…” Author manuscript, HHS Public Access, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative…” Neural Regeneration Research, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Effects of blackberries on motor and cognitive function…” Nutritional Neuroscience, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Medicinal Effects of Nutraceutical Fruits for the…” Scientifica, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Protective Roles of Dietary Berries in Cancer” Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Recent Progress in Anti-Obesity and Anti-Diabetes…” Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Berries: Emerging impact on cardiovascular health” Author manuscript, HHS Public Access, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. The Blackberry Fruit: A Review on Its Composition and…” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Academia.
  10. Blackberry (Rubus Fruticosus)” UIC Heritage Garden, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  11. Rubus Pharmacology: Antiquity to the Present” HORTSCIENCE, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  12. Cyanidin-3-O-β-D-Glucoside Improves Bone Indices” Journal of Medicinal Foods, US National Library of Medicine.
  13. Dietary Polyphenols, Berries, and Age-Related Bone Loss…” Antioxidants, US National Library of Medicine.
  14. Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
  15. Berry Buying and Storing” Spend Smart. Eat Smart, Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach.
  16. The inhibitory effects of berry polyphenols on…” BioFactors (Oxford, England), US National Library of Medicine.

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.