5 Health Benefits of Red and Black Raspberries
Red raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are supercharged with ellagic acid and other phytochemicals that have been linked to a myriad of health benefits. Black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) contain many of the same health-protecting compounds as their red cousins, but in addition, they also contain high levels anthocyanins. To learn all about how the nutrients and phytochemicals in red and black raspberries can boost your health, keep reading.
Strong Antioxidant Properties
In 2006, a group of researchers from Chile published an interesting comparison in the Latin American Archives of Nutrition. Their study measured the antioxidant power of a wide range of healthy foods, including 28 berries and fruits. Among the tested berries and fruits, only maqui berries, strawberries, sour cherries, white mulberries, olives, and blackberries were shown to have more antioxidant power than red raspberries. The antioxidant capacity of raspberries was shown to be even stronger than that of black grapes, plums, or kiwis.
But other studies have demonstrated that black raspberries, which were not included in the Chilean study, may have even stronger antioxidant properties than red raspberries. A study published in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that among the tested caneberries (berries of the Rubus species), black raspberries were the winner in terms of antioxidant capacity. The other tested berries included red raspberries (Rubus idaeus), evergreen blackberries (Rubus laciniatus), marionberries (Rubus ursinus), and boysenberries (Rubus ursinus X idaeus).
Both Black and Red Raspberries Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Raspberries are considered one of the best breast cancer fighting foods as well as one of the most powerful cervical cancer fighting foods, but these powerful little berries may also offer protection against other types of cancer. A study published in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that both red and black raspberries inhibited the growth of human oral, breast, colon, and prostate tumor cell lines in test tubes. Furthermore, black raspberry was found to possess extremely strong pro-apoptotic effects against the tested colon cancer cell line. As their name suggests, pro-apoptotic foods and compounds promote apoptosis, a natural process that your body uses to get rid of unneeded or abnormal cells.
But what gives raspberries their cancer-fighting qualities? Research suggests the secret behind the anti-cancer effects of red and black raspberries may lie in a compound called ellagic acid, a phenolic acid that has proven anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties. Raspberries are among the best dietary sources of ellagic acid, although a number of other berries also contain significant levels of this powerful compound. In addition, black raspberries are one of the best natural sources of anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments that give many famous 'superberries', such as black chokeberries and maqui berries, their intense colors and extraordinary health benefits. Anthocyanins have received a great deal of scientific attention, particularly in the context of colon cancer prevention, and several test tube and animal studies suggest that anthocyanins may help inhibit the development colorectal cancer through multiple mechanisms of action.
The Anthocyanins in Black Raspberries May Promote Eye Health
You may have already heard that wild blueberries are good for your eyes due to their high concentration of anthocyanins. But a study published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that black raspberries contain even more anthocyanins than either wild or cultivated blueberries! In fact, only aronia berries and elderberries were shown to contain higher levels of anthocyanins than black raspberries.
Research suggests that anthocyanins may promote healthy eyesight in several ways, including by improving night vision, boosting circulation within the capillaries of the retina, reducing the risk of retinopathy in diabetic patients, and providing protection against macular degeneration.
Tip: buy freeze-dried black raspberry powder and reap the health benefits of this unsung superfood also when black raspberries are not in season in the UK and the US. Check out the health food stores in your region or order BerriHealth's black raspberry powder through Amazon.com. If you live in the UK, check out Nutri-Fruit's black blackberry powder on Amazon.co.uk. Freeze-dried black raspberry powder is ideal for smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and homemade energy bars.
Benefits for the Cardiovascular System
A growing body of evidence suggests that eating raspberries may promote cardiovascular health by combating hypertension (high blood pressure) and by inhibiting LDL oxidation. A study published in the January 2011 edition of Pharmacognosy Magazine found that hypertensive rats supplemented with red raspberry extract experienced a drop of 12.2-16.1 mmHg in their mean systolic blood pressure during the five-week treatment period. Another study, published in the October 1998 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that among the five tested fruits, only blackberries were more effective at inhibiting LDL oxidation than red raspberries in test tubes. Recent research suggests that LDL oxidation is an excellent indicator of cardiovascular disease risk, potentially even better than LDL cholesterol levels.
The above described studies on the cardioprotective benefits of raspberries (and other berries) only investigated the effects of red raspberries, and thus further studies should be conducted to find out whether black raspberries have similar effects.
Both Black and Red Raspberries Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are commonly used to alleviate inflammation and pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs work their anti-arthritis magic by inhibiting cyclooxygenases, chemicals that are produced by the body as a response to pain. However, NSAIDs – like many other drugs – can have unwanted side effects, which has led researchers to look for alternative treatments for arthritis patients.
A study published in the September 2001 issue of the journal Phytomedicine tested the cyclooxygenase-inhibiting activities of a number of anthocyanin-rich fruits and found that anthocyanins from sweet cherries and raspberries had cyclooxygenase-inhibiting activities, similar to those of ibuprofen and naproxen. Another study, which appeared in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, tested the effects of raspberry extract in rats with experimentally-induced arthritis. Compared with the control group, the rats that received red raspberry polyphenols showed fewer and less severe arthritis symptoms at the end of the 30-day study period.
But the anti-inflammatory benefits of raspberries are not limited to their potential anti-arthritis effects. A study published in the March 2011 issue of the journal Carcinogenesis found that in an experimental mouse model of ulcerative colitis, mice that were treated with freeze-dried black raspberries for seven days experienced a significant drop in the expression of several pro-inflammatory cytokines. Ulcerative colitis is characterized by abnormally high levels of cytokines, which in turn can damage the lining of the colon and increase the risk for colon cancer.