Oh, the perfect berry! The human body is an amazing thing, and after hundreds of thousands of years as hunters and gatherers it has somewhat adapted itself to the inconsistency that the seasonal diet offers nutritionally. While our body is not capable of storing things like vitamin-C, it can super-compensate in other areas, generally speaking.
Today’s selection is one of my favorites for so many reasons. The raspberry is appealing visually as an addition to salads, and of course desserts. They are a nutritional powerhouse, and of course amazingly delicious. Regardless of what kind of dietary restrictions you may be following, certain foods like the ones I feature here should always be made a part of your diet, even if in limited quantities. There is just too much that is unique and necessary for our health in something as simple as the raspberry to not be made at least a small part of your weekly diet.
As always I like to give a little background on what we are discussing on any subject, and the raspberry is no different. There are several subspecies of raspberries that are grown, but the ones that we encounter are most likely either the European raspberry, or the American raspberry. The taste varies by cultivar from sweet to acidic, which is a feature shared also with strawberries.
The raspberry is technically an aggregate of small drupe-lets, which are arranged in a circular placement around a hollow central cavity. Each drupe-let contains one small whitish yellow seed that is somehow very satisfying to crunch I might add. Commonly red or pink in color, hybrids come in a range of colors including black, purple, orange, yellow and white. All of these different colors have a slightly different flavor, and I encourage you to try them all whenever you see them available.
As always, this superfood is low in calories. A 100 gram serving has only 52 caories, but contains a whopping six and a half grams of fiber. That is a very unusual ratio, which means that it won’t take many calories to make you feel full, which is what fiber will do as well as the many other benefits of a diet high in fiber. That same 100 gram serving also on contains five and a half grams of net carbs. The parameters of the low carb superfood remain intact, and therefore warrant our further study.
Raspberries have very high levels of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals. This specific type of phytochemical has a very wide range of health giving benefits. With anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties, strong anti-cancer activity, inhibition of HIV activity, is anti-bacterial and even has diuretic properties for those of you concerned with your water weight before a weekend at the cottage or the beach. These phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals are anthocyanins, ellegic acid, quercetin, gallic acid, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salycylic acid. Did you get all that? There will be a quiz at the end of this article, so I suggest you memorize them all. I kid of course, but I had to include the specific kinds. They all however, are categorized under the same label as being phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals. To further the list of above abilities this wonderful phytochemical combination has to offer are, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and as a preventative in neuro-degenerative diseases.
Another interesting tidbit regarding the raspberry is the sugar substitute xylitol. You may or may not have heard of it, but this substance is extracted from raspberries. A teaspoon contains less than ten calories while a teaspoon of sugar contains 15. Not only is there the caloric differential to consider, but xylitol absorbs slowly as opposed to sugar which absorbs almost immediately. This makes it a usable form of sugar for diabetics due to its low glycemic index.
Fresh raspberries contain anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin-A, vitamin-E and vitamin-C. Although vitamin-C is a somewhat common vitamin, it is a powerful anti-oxidant nonetheless. 100 grams of raspberries provides 26.2 milligrams of Vitamin-C. Fruits that are rich in vitamin-C help the body to develop resistance against infectious agents, help to counter inflammation, and of course scavenge free radicals.
As well as the anti-oxidants A, C, and E, and the host of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals, raspberries are also rich in other health enhancing poly phenolic anti-oxidants. These nutrients specifically are lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene. All are in small amounts however, but still in enough quantity to be of benefit. Altogether these compounds help protect our health as scavengers of oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species. By doing so, the raspberry acts as a powerful anti-aging agent and prohibiter of various disease processes. The value of it’s anti-oxidant function is such that it has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity of roughly 4900 per 100 grams. This is very high, making it among the highest of all fruits.
We may begin talking about the vitamins of the raspberry now that we finally can move on from the massive list of anti-oxidant capabilities that the raspberry has to offer. Raspberries are rich in B vitamins as well as vitamin-K. The vitamins B-6, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid are in fair supply. These vitamins are very important as they function as co-factors that are essential in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. As I have previously mentioned, B vitamins are particularly important to be consumed in foods because they cannot be manufactured within the body.
Of course there are a good many minerals that have yet to be mentioned. Minerals such as potassium, manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. Manganese is important because it is used by the body as a co-factor in the anti-oxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the manufacture of red blood cells, and of course for its valuable contribution to tendon strength. Magnesium is crucial for its role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Iron is present in our bodies in large amounts. Somewhere between three to five grams is a part of us right now, which is a fair amount of metal to be carrying around. It is necessary to carry life-giving oxygen to the blood cells. Every mineral plays its small but important part in keeping our bodies fully functioning and full of vitality.
These are all of course extremely valuable. There isn’t a nutrient that has no function that does not have a crucial role. If there is, then I’ve ignored it or them as my focus has always been on learning ways to enhance health through the various means at hand. This why it is so important if you are limiting your food selection somewhat in an attempt to deepen your physical attributes, to be sure that you always choose wisely.
Just like anything else in life, we must develop the attitude of wanting the most for the least when it comes to our nutrition and fuel also. If there is a food that is heads above the majority of the rest, then those are the foods that should be your focus. It may be possible that there is only ten percent of all foods that are available to us that we would be better of consuming, rather than many of the lesser nutrient dense foods. Any food will provide us with the basics for life, but it is evolving into high efficiency athletes and human beings that I am interested in.
In order to do this, things like prevention of disease and the ability of the disease to manifest itself being prohibited, as well as anti-aging and anti-degenerative qualities within foods must be our focus. Enjoy the power packed raspberry!
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