Are you fortunate enough to have a mulberry tree in your back yard? I know they are messy but it’s time to stop cursing it and get on with enjoying the mulberries as a powerhouse of nutrients with amazing health benefits. Fact is, the more a fruit or vegetable stains your fingers, the higher its content of anthocyanins, the polyphenols responsible for giving it its strong colouring and the major contributors to the antioxidant activity of all berries. Antioxidants attract and neutralize highly reactive free radicals that could otherwise damage body cells in ways that initiate cancer development, heart disease and age-related eye damage. Apart from having an abundance of these phytochemicals, mulberries and all other berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant, with one cup of most berry varieties giving almost half the daily requirement of vitamin C for an adult. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen, helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries and promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system.
And then there’s resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes and red wine, that has been heavily publicised for its positive health benefits. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer, blood clots, diabetes and aiding in weight loss. A fact that is not well publicised is that resveratrol is abundant in mulberries!
Like all berries, mulberries are also an excellent source of vitamin B, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and just a handful of most berry types can help you meet your daily fibre requirement. In the past, very little research has been done on mulberries. However that is all changing with mulberries now set to become the new super-food. Unfortunately the mulberry tree has been categorized as an invasive alien in South Africa and even though it may only be a problem in some areas such as KZN, you probably won’t be able to buy a mulberry tree at any nursery anywhere in the country. So do look after what you have!
Blueberries on the other hand have been the subject of many a study and their health benefits, although probably very similar to mulberries, are well documented. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, blueberries take first prize in the berry category when it comes to antioxidant activity per serving (ORAC values), with mulberries and blackberries close seconds. This is why blueberries are touted as a super-food when it comes to anti-aging, cancer prevention, heart and vision health.
Other promising health benefits that have emerged in laboratory studies done on blueberries include:
- Improvement in motor skills and reversal of short term memory
- The potential of blueberries to inhibit the growth of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive and hard to treat form of breast tumor,
- May inhibit both the initiation and promotion stages of cancer
- May confer protection to the brain against damage from ischemic stroke
- May reduce plasma cholesterol levels especially LDL cholesterol
- Could help regulate blood pressure and combat atherosclerosis
- May improve night vision and prevent tired eyes.
Let’s not forget strawberries, which, in season, are usually more easily available than other berries. Ideally look for organic, firm, bright, juicy, fragrant berries with fresh green caps. If you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, activating an enzyme that destroys vitamin C. If the berries are not organic, wash them thoroughly as strawberries are one of the most pesticide-sprayed fruit crops. Do not hull them before washing as this may reduce the nutritional value of the strawberry.
The healing health benefits of raw fruits and vegetables should never be underestimated and incorporating a wide variety of raw berries into your diet will ensure optimal health.
- 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
- 1 cup plain low-fat yoghurt
- 1/2 cup organic cream (optional)
- Xylitol or stevia to sweeten
- Blend all the ingredients till smooth
- Pour into lolly moulds and freeze for 3 to 4 hours.
- Place the frozen moulds under warm water for a few seconds before attempting to remove.
- 1 cup blueberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen
- 2 bananas, preferably frozen
- 1½ plain low-fat yoghurt
- Xylitol, stevia or raw honey to sweeten
Blend till smooth, adding iced water if necessary. Drink immediately.