Health Benefits of Black Berries with Recipe Ideas
When it comes to summer fruits, blueberries, peaches and more often steal the show. But blackberries, which also peak in the warmer months, deserve a place in your fruit salads and smoothies. Between their inky purple color and savory tart flavor, there’s a lot to love about blackberries — and given that they’re packed with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, it’s a shame that they are often overlooked. Read on for all the necessary information about the juicy berry, including various blackberry benefits and creative recipe ideas.
What are blackberries?
Blackberries are small, bite-sized fruits that grow on shrubs. They are part of the “bramble” or “caneberry” fruit group, which also includes raspberries, depending on the University of Kentucky. Additionally, blackberries are native to eastern North America, according to North Carolina State University.
Plot of the plot: Despite their name, blackberries are technically not berries. In botany, a true berry is defined as a single fruit with seeds and a fleshy pulp (think blueberries or cranberries), according to an article in the review Antioxidants. In contrast, blackberries are botanically known as aggregate fruits, which means that they are made up of multiple tiny, round, fleshy fruits called drupelets, as indicated by Colorado State University. These drupelets grow in clusters – forming what we call a blackberry – and each contains a small seed.
That said, blackberries are commonly referred to as berries and are similar to berries in nutrition and mode of consumption. This article will therefore refer to them as such.
Blackberries offer essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium and even calcium, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data. Plus, blackberries, like other berries, are great sources of antioxidants. This is due to their high levels of anthocyanins, i.e. antioxidant plant pigments that give purple, blue and/or red color, depending on an article in the review Molecules. (FYI, anthocyanins are also found in apples, plums, grapes, and other fruits.)
Check out the nutrient profile for 1 cup (~144 grams) of raw blackberries, according to the USDA:
- 62 calories
- 2 grams of protein
- 14 grams of carbs
- 8 grams of fiber
- 7 grams of sugar
Health Benefits of Blackberries
This impressive nutritional information about blackberries translates into multiple benefits. Here, learn about the health benefits of blackberries, according to dietitians and research.
May reduce the risk of chronic disease
If you’re looking to boost your antioxidant intake, go for blackberries. Blackberries offer antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C, quercetin, tannins and anthocyanins, as mentioned above, notes Sandy Younan Brikho, MDA, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of The dish on nutrition. This is remarkable because antioxidants can help protect your body against oxidative stressa major player in the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Here’s the truth: Oxidative stress occurs when cell-damaging molecules called free radicals build up in your body. This can happen due to risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, environmental pollution, or certain dietary habits, depending on an article in the review Frontiers in Physiology. (High fat and high carbohydrate diets, in particular, are linked to oxidative stress, according to an article in food.) Antioxidants (including those found in blackberries) neutralize these free radicals, ultimately preventing them from causing cell damage, says a registered dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, MS, RDN. So, eating plenty of blackberries and other antioxidant-rich foods can help control oxidative stress and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
May support immune function
Another benefit of blackberry is for your immune system. As noted, blackberries are packed with vitamin C – one cup contains 30 milligramsa good portion of the US Food and Nutrition Board’s (RDA) recommended nutrient intake of 90 and 75 milligrams for men and women, respectively. This nutrient is vital for healthy immune function, as noted an article in the review Frontiers in immunology. For starters, vitamin C plays a role in your body’s production of white blood cells, which attack disease-causing germs. Vitamin C is also involved in wound healing, according to the Nutrition and Dietetics Academy. Plus, blackberries also contain magnesium and vitamin A, two nutrients necessary for healthy immune responses and reactions, says Pasquariello. So if you’re trying to ward off illness, stocking up on blackberries can help.
May support neurological health
As an antioxidant-rich food, the humble blackberry also benefits your noggin. Example: The brain is very sensitive to oxidative stress, especially in the elderly, according to an article in Neurobiology of aging. Oxidative stress can damage neurons or nerve cells, potentially leading to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, says Pasquariello. But when eaten regularly, the antioxidants in blackberries can help minimize oxidative stress, thereby protecting your brain from damage.
Promote healthy digestion
The health benefits of blackberries even extend to your gut. The juicy fruit contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, according to Virginia Tech. This is great news for your digestive tract, as both types have digestive health benefits. Insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve in water) can increase stool bulk because Form Previously reported. The increased bulk can help stool pass easily through the digestive tract, potentially reducing constipation, Brikho says. In contrast, soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. This can firm up the stool and help relieve diarrhea.
Support blood clotting and bone health
Other health benefits of blackberry can improve your bone health as well as your body’s ability to form blood clots. A single cup of blackberries offers nearly 30 milligrams of vitamin Kabout 30% of GDR of the nutrient. “In the body, [vitamin K] helps to assemble proteins that [stop] bleeding, helping a wound to close and eventually heal,” says Pasquariello. Vitamin K is also involved in the creation of proteins necessary for the production of strong bone tissue, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. In reality, vitamin K deficiency is associated with osteoporosisa chronic disease characterized by fragile and porous bones.
Potential Risks of Blackberries
According to Brikho, mulberries aren’t known to interact with any medications, foods, or diseases, so they’re relatively safe to eat. There are also very few cases of allergies to blackberries (or berries in general), but they do exist, according to an article in the review Antioxidants. If you’re new to blackberries and have a history of food allergies, proceed with caution and watch out for common food allergy symptoms, such as stomach cramps, hives, coughing, or difficulty swallowing, as recommended by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
How to buy and eat blackberries
“At the grocery store, you can find blackberries in various forms, such as jam, jelly, lemonade, [and] pie filling,” says Brikho. Whole blackberries — which you can buy fresh or frozen — are the most nutritionally dense choices, she adds. The reason ? Fresh and frozen blackberries do not contain added ingredients such as sugar and salt, allowing you to get the most nutrition from blackberries.
When buying blackberries, look for berries that are shiny, plump and firm, as suggested by Purdue University. Avoid berries that are soft or bruised, which could indicate spoilage. At home, store blackberries uncovered in the refrigerator for up to two days, but do not wash them until you are ready to eat, as recommended by the University of Arkansas. Otherwise, the humidity will cause them to spoil quickly. You can also freeze blackberries by spreading them out on a rimmed baking sheet, then placing them in the freezer overnight. (This will prevent the berries from sticking together.) Once frozen, store the berries in airtight freezer-safe bags or containers and enjoy them within six to eight months.
Blackberry Recipe Ideas
Fresh, ripe blackberries are wonderfully sweet, tart and juicy. And while they’re certainly delicious on their own, there are plenty of creative ways to enjoy them. “There is so much sweet and salty [ways to use] them,” as Pasquariello points out. Here are some tasty ways to enjoy the health benefits of blackberries:
In smoothies. One of the easiest ways to reap the benefits of blackberries is to make a smoothie or smoothie bowl. Try combining them with other berries – for example strawberries, blueberries and raspberries – or banana and pineapple for a tropical touch.
In salads. Take a tip from Pasquariello and toss halved blackberries into your next salad. “They marry beautifully [in] a summer salad made with baby kale, fresh tomatoes, roasted chickpeas and almonds,” she notes.
In non-alcoholic cocktails. With the help of blackberries, you can naturally sweeten your next mocktail recipe. “Crush a handful of blackberries with the back of a wooden spoon, then add ice, a splash of seltzer (or kombucha), chopped mint and lime – and you have a refreshing spritz,” explains Pasquariello.
With meat. The tangy sweetness of the blackberries complements the savory flavor of the meat, as these pork medallions with blackberry chutney by Martha Stewart. You don’t eat red meat? Try that blackberry glazed chicken leg recipe from the culinary blog Flavor & Savor.
On toast. For a simpler version of jam or jelly, dress your toast with fresh blackberries. They go particularly well with creamy ingredients such as butter, cream cheese or ricotta. Another mouth-watering option is to top the crispy sourdough with blackberries, Brie and honey, Pasquariello notes.