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Are berries good for you?
May 1, 2010 5:20 PM   Subscribe

How healthy are cherries, raspberries and other berries to eat? Is there a significant downside to eating a lot of this type of fruit?

I'm trying to increase the fruit content of my diet and find that these are things I can actually eat and enjoy eating, but I've seen some health scares about the levels/ effects of fructose in fruit like this. Should I worry about this? Is there some reputable site where I can check out things like this to avoid 'Bad Science' food scares/food hype? Thanks!
posted by Flitcraft to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lots of berries cause diarrhea. Some may have pesticide residue. Other than that no health concerns I'm aware of.
posted by dfriedman at 5:27 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Moderation and variety are the keys to a healthy diet.

Try to eat as many kinds of fruits and vegetables as you can. Frozen fruits are a good way to sample things, because you can keep them around longer.

If berries are your only fruits, you're ahead of the folks who eat no fruits and veggies, but not getting as much variety as you could. So, start where you are and be proud of yourself for the effort you are making! When you're ready to branch out further, you will.
posted by bilabial at 5:29 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have been told that blue berries will make you live forever (you have to decide if that is a good thing or not). Raspberries too are heralded by their own cult. I may hear things from people who tend to go overboard, but I've never heard that these things are bad for you, though everything over done, it's great.

Me? I eat strawberries and peaches whenever possible. They're so good they don't even need cults.
posted by Some1 at 5:32 PM on May 1, 2010


Stay away from berries that aren't organic. Berries really soak up pesticides.
posted by bearwife at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find a little bit goes a long way with berries. If I eat more than a serving, my tummy aches. I'm getting much better about paying attention to my body, when it comes to how full I am, or how I react to certain foods.

I like to eat berries as a sweet treat, maybe a quarter of a cup of blueberries and raspberries. The darker the berry, the better it is for you.

My big fruit and veggie consumption comes from things that fill me up, like a medium apple quartered with a tablespoon of peanut butter smeared on it. Or a cup of broccoli with cheese (yum!). Chilled red grapes are a great treat on a hot day.

If you're worried about fructose amounts, find fruits that have lots of fiber, as that will slow the absorption of the sugar into your system.
posted by lootie777 at 5:51 PM on May 1, 2010


Stay away from berries that aren't organic. Berries really soak up pesticides.

Organic farming uses pesticides, too. In fact, because of the lower efficiency of the pesticides allowed for organic farming, farmers have to use more for a similar effectiveness. These pesticides, I should note, aren't any less harmful to people than the ones used by conventional farms. The only real difference between organic pesticides and regular pesticides is that the organic ones are derived from natural sources instead of synthesized from whole cloth. The source of a poison is totally irrelevant to its toxicity--just ask the box jellyfish or the tobacco plant.

But you know what gets rid of the majority of pesticide on produce? Washing it.
posted by Netzapper at 5:59 PM on May 1, 2010 [19 favorites]


I've gone long stretches eating several cups of blueberries a day with no consequences other than feeling great. Cherries, however are a different story, I never feel quite right after eating more than a handful - but I can't help but wonder if it's a psychosomatic thing because of this scene in The Witches of Eastwick.
posted by jardinier at 6:05 PM on May 1, 2010


I've seen some health scares about the levels/ effects of fructose in fruit like this.

If your question is whether berries in particular have a high sugar content, relative to fruits in general, the answer is no. They have a very low sugar content, relative to fruits like grapes or oranges, and have a lot of fiber to spread the absorption of the sugar over a long period of time. If your concern is sugar content, berries are a great thing to eat.
posted by palliser at 6:08 PM on May 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


What Netzapper said.
posted by Silvertree at 6:20 PM on May 1, 2010


Is there some reputable site where I can check out things like this to avoid 'Bad Science' food scares/food hype?
I know nothing about actual nutritional science or the general reputability of the sponsoring foundation but The World's Healthiest Foods seems to be a useful resource. Each entry has a good amount of information on nutrition, benefits, and potential concerns which appear to be based on scientific research (references are also listed). (Perhaps I'm being a little overcautious in my disclaimers but (as you are obviously aware) there can be much popular misinformation (intentional or otherwise) about food and diet.)
posted by yz at 6:32 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if you wash them, you don't really have to worry about pesticides on anything other than strawberries, and even those may be ok. Otherwise, if you're eating them without sugar, you'll probably get too much fiber before you get too much of anything else. In general, if you're eating a whole food, you're doing a lot better than cookies/chips/other processed foods.
posted by ldthomps at 6:35 PM on May 1, 2010


A small point: the pips in Strawberries and Raspberries have been known to trigger Appendicitis. but only if it was pending anyway. Apart from that, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and fibre. Plus, they taste heavenly.

The main benefit of Raspberries, to my mind, is that they are the easiest fruit on earth to grow. Find a spare patch of yard, clear the weeds, then plant 10 canes about 18" apart. Preferably in a corner, as they tend to spread outwards. Just prune them back to 10" length of cane in Late Fall if summer fruiting and late Feb/early March if Fall Fruiting. You'll have 30 canes within 2 years and so many berries you'll be inviting people to pick them, just so they don't go to waste. I prefer the Fall fruiting varieties as you often get two crops if the weather is good! Apart from a light, two-yearly mulch of organic compost, they survive in spite of me ... :-)
posted by Susurration at 6:56 PM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like nutritiondata.com. A lot of their data came from The USDA, but it's easier to sort through and look at on Nutrition Data. Anyway, for comparison check out raspberries, cantaloupe, and Florida oranges... They're all full of sugar, but the raspberries win and the oranges loose (but still taste delicious, om nom nom).
posted by anaelith at 7:09 PM on May 1, 2010


seconding World's Healthiest foods website (whfoods.com)
posted by Neekee at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2010


They're all full of sugar

5 g of sugar for a full cup of raspberries -- plus 8 g of fiber, which slows the absorption of even that very modest amount -- is nowhere near "full of sugar." (You may have been looking at "Total Carbohydrates," which includes fiber.)
posted by palliser at 7:48 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a berryterian, well not really, but I have eaten a pound or more in a day when they are in season. No problems except blue poop from too many blueberries. I don't think eating a lot is a problem, and I keep up with health news. According to my nutritionist, raw bright colored fruit and vegetables are good. Now if you turn them into pie or fritters, that would be delicious and not so good (health-wise). Also, avoid juice. Delicious, yes, but juice really is full of sugar with no fiber to balance it.
posted by fifilaru at 8:24 PM on May 1, 2010


If you're looking at it nutritionally, berries are one of the healthier fruits you can eat; they're not at ALL full of sugar (except cherries are considerably more sugary); berries are one of the only kinds of fruits you can even eat on a low carb diet, precisely because they have so little sugar and a decent amount of fiber. They're good for any kind of diet, really, because without the sugar they're lower calorie, and they don't really have much in the way of anything else in them.

Compare that to apples or oranges or pineapples or melons, all of which have a lot of sugar and more calories. I'm not saying those things are horrible to eat, but that berries are pretty impressive things.
posted by Nattie at 11:25 PM on May 1, 2010


The main benefit of Raspberries, to my mind, is that they are the easiest fruit on earth to grow.

That really depends on where you live. In California, yes they were easy to grow and I always had a reliable spring crop. Here in the south, they are too much trouble. They get weedy very fast and weeding under thorny vines is a pain. Plus in the humid climates they develop rust and are much more disease-prone. Blueberries, on the other hand, are care free, but not very attractive plants.

Blueberries and raspberries are the only fruit besides tomatoes and avocados recommended on lo-carb diets such as PaleoNu
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:15 AM on May 2, 2010


Fabbo. Thank you all very much. At last, something I enjoy eating which isn't bad for me. The local wholefood shop has been raided for tasty berries. Those food data sites look really useful too.
posted by Flitcraft at 8:45 AM on May 2, 2010


In terms of trying to get some variety in your diet, I recommend fitting other fruits and vegetables in other things, rather than just having them plain. Such as bananas in your cereal, apples with peanut butter, carrots and ranch dip. It makes eating fruits and veggies a lot easier.
posted by radioamy at 11:15 AM on May 2, 2010


For some reason I cannot explain, I've never been crazy about most fruits. I know I need them to stay healthy, and I can choke down the occasional banana or peach, but apples, pears, oranges, and many others just really turn me off.

Berries, on the other hand, are delicious to me. Cherries too. My mom is the same way. She told me some "blood type diet" hoo hah about it, but I don't know how much I buy into that. I eat a shitload of berries though, and I feel pretty all right about it.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:37 PM on May 2, 2010


Sorry to be late returning to this thread, but I really question your assertions, Netzapper. Not only is this the first I've heard that organic farmers use more pesticides -- which contradicts the available information -- but your links are funky. I can't tell what the source is for the first link, and the second is bonked.

Here's some info on how berries soak up pesticides. And here's some more info about how organic farmers apply less pesticides than commercial farmers. To quote:

When pest populations get out of balance, growers will try various options like insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers. If these fail, the certifier may grant permission to apply botanical or other non-persistent pesticides from the USDA National List of Approved Substances under restricted conditions. Botanicals are derived from plants and are broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight.

So -- berries are great, but eat organic ones!
posted by bearwife at 11:17 AM on May 3, 2010


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