Blackberries: Facts, Nutrition, Health Benefits, and How to Use

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Blackberries benefits
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Berries in general are among the most antioxidant-rich foods available. The blackberry is no exception. Not only are they delicious, but blackberries are also an incredible source of nutrients and loads of health benefits.

In particular, blackberries are very high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. They also contain specific antioxidants known to prevent and slow cancer growth. Furthermore, the fruit could improve brain health, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, benefit heart health, and promote skin health.

This article is a guide for everything you need to know about the blackberry, especially its rich history and many health benefits.

Interesting Facts and History of Blackberries

Blackberries are part of the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family, which also includes the raspberry. The blackberry has the honor as the official fruit of Alabama. It is found throughout the Pacific coast and North America. Today, Mexico is considered the largest blackberry exporter.

Interestingly, the composition of the blackberry is much different than other berries. Blackberries are considered an “aggregate fruit.” This means they have merged a number of plant ovaries to take form. The tiny bubbles on blackberries are called drupelets. The immature blackberry is green or red, but upon ripening it turns black, juicy, and soft.

Since there are so many cross-cultivated varieties, it is not possible to classify a specific “taxonomy” of the original blackberry. As a result, with the complexity of the blackberry species, there is no way to determine where it originally came from. There are about seven Rubus genus species of the blackberry, and hundreds more microspecies.

Ancient cultures considered the blackberry plant a weed, and yet it has a deep history greater than 2,000 years. In the 18th century, the Greeks used these berries in the treatment of gout. In fact, it was famously known as the “gout berry.”

Blackberries also have their place in ancient folklore. In Christianity, the blackberry symbolizes spiritual ignorance or neglect. Some literature also insists that Christ’s crown of thorns was made from blackberry runners. Other folklore associates blackberries with bad omens and sometimes death.

Blackberry Nutrition

What are important blackberry nutrition facts? The blackberry is easily one of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us. For instance, one cup of blackberries contains about 50% of the daily recommendation of vitamin and manganese, as well as 36% of the required vitamin K.

They are also an incredible source of fiber, containing about 30% of the required amount. These berries are also a good source of:

  • copper
  • folate
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin A
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • zinc
  • iron
  • vitamin B3

You will also find traces amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6 as well as choline, betaine, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium.

Blackberries are also one of best antioxidant foods you can get with an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score of 5,347. ORAC is a measure of the antioxidant content or radical scavenging capacity of a particular food.

The following is a comprehensive blackberry nutrition chart with information for one cup of raw blackberries, or 144 grams of the fruit. This is about 15 or so blackberries.

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
Calories 61.9 3.00%
Carbohydrates 14.7 g 5.00%
Fiber 7.6 g 31.00%
Protein 2.0 g 4.00%
Total Fat 0.7 g 1.00%
Monounsaturated Fat 0.1 g N/A
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g N/A
Iron 0.9 mg 5.00%
Manganese 0.9 mg 47.00%
Copper 0.2 mg 12.00%
Calcium 41.8 mg 4.00%
Magnesium 28.8 mg 7.00%
Phosphorus 31.7 mg 3.00%
Potassium 233 mg 7.00%
Selenium 0.6 mcg 1.00%
Zinc 0.8 mg 5.00%
Folate 36.0 mcg 9.00%
Vitamin B1 0.01 mg 2.00%
Vitamin B2 0.01mg 2.00%
Vitamin B3 0.9 mg 5.00%
Vitamin B5 0.4 mg 4.00%
Vitamin B6 0.01 mg 2.00%
Vitamin A 308IU 6.00%
Vitamin C 30.2 mg 50.00%
Vitamin E 1.7 mg 8.00%
Vitamin K 28.5 mcg 36.00%
Choline 12.2 mg N/A
Betaine 0.4 mg N/A

N/A—Not Applicable

6 Health Benefits of Blackberries

What are the health benefits of blackberries? For instance, the vitamin K in blackberries helps regulate hormone function, which could reduce cramps in women struggling from PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Vitamin K is also considered a blood-clotting vitamin. This means it helps with excessive bleeding, and gives pain relief during heavy menstruation.

Blackberry health benefits also include preventing and slowing cancer growth, improving and maintain brain function, reducing inflammation, protecting the cardiovascular system, promotes skin health, and supporting oral health.

Let’s take a look at the impressive health benefits of blackberries:

1. Anti-Cancer

The most well-researched health benefit of blackberries is its ability to fight cancer. This is due to a specific class of antioxidants called polyphenols within blackberries. A particular polyphenol called anthocyanins is considered the main reason blackberries prevent cancer.

A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2006 demonstrated the effectiveness of a specific anthocyanin in blackberries called cyanidin-3-glucoside for inhibiting the growth of cancerous lung tumors.

Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2006 would show the effectiveness of blackberries to prohibit the growth of breast, colon, oral, and prostate cancers. Vitamin K in general may also treat and prevent liver, oral, nasal, stomach, prostate, and colon cancers.

2. Brain Health

The nutrient content in blackberries might also help individuals maintain and improve mental health. Research published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience in 2013 shows that a diet with regular blackberry intake could increase brain performance while also improving short-term memory.

According to the European Journal of Nutrition in 2013, polyphenols from wild blackberries have a particular ability to protect brain cell degeneration; however, commercial blackberries did not have the same effect.

3. Inflammation

Research shows that the antioxidants in blackberries naturally reduce inflammation while allowing the body’s protective processes to occur rather than an overdrive reaction.

Blackberries’ protection against inflammation is evident against stomach ulcers. A study published in the journal PLOS Once in 2013 found that when subjects were given extracted ellagitannins, an antioxidant from blackberries, there was an 88% reduction of stomach ulcers. This was due to a reduction of oxidative stress and decreased inflammation of the stomach’s mucosal lining.

4. Skin Health

The antioxidants in blackberries, like the anthocyanins, can protect the keratinocytes in the skin from UVB damage, according to research published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2012. Keratinocytes are cells that form a protective layer on the epidermis while also reproducing under the outer skin layer for continuous epidermis replenish. The vitamin C in blackberries may also promote collagen production and reduce dry skin.

A 2011 study also found that the antiviral effect of blackberry extract inhibits the herpes simplex virus type 1, which is responsible for cold sores.

5. Cardiovascular Health

Blackberry’s vitamin K helps stop artery hardening, and prevents buildup that leads to serious heart diseases. Studies show that vitamin K consumption can reduce inflammation in cells that line the blood cells while also promoting healthy blood pressure and decreasing the risk of a heart attack.

In addition, research published in the journal Life Science in 2003 shows that a special anthocyanin, cyaniding-3-O-glucoside, from blackberries helps protect the endothelial blood vessels, and this may reduce dysfunction, and delay or prevent cardiovascular disease.

6. Oral Health

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Periodontal Research found that the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects of blackberry extract can fight against some bacteria types that cause oral disease. The study authors suggest blackberry extract can control and prevent cavities and gum disease.

How to Pick and Prepare Blackberries

If you’re lucky enough to pick wild blackberries, select firm and shiny fruit. Also, avoid the low fruit that may have been affected by dogs or other animals. The best and freshest fruit will be found between August and September.

It is a good idea to use several small containers to collect wild berries, since it is easy to crush the drupelets of the blackberries that contain their tart and sweet flavor. Freshly picked blackberries last about two to three days at room temperature, and putting them in the fridge can extend their life up to a week. At the same time, let them get to room temperature before eating them.

They also freeze well, but do so in a flat single layer to avoid crushing them. Blackberries are an important fruit to purchase organic whenever possible. Keep in mind that wild or organic varieties often contain a far better nutritional profile than their commercially produced and store-bought counterparts.

Healthy Blackberry Recipe

Blackberries can be used in a number of dishes, including desserts, smoothies, chia pudding, especially salads. Here is a tasty salad recipe that you can make for your lunch or dinner:

Blackberry Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of leafy greens
  • 1 pint of fresh organic blackberries
  • 1/2 cup of roasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp of fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 medium-sized cucumber, chopped
  • Goat cheese, crumbled

For dressing:

  • 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1 large organic lemon
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp of raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp of coarse sea salt

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, add greens, cucumber, almonds, blackberries, onion, lemon zest, and crumbled goat cheese.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients for the dressing, and pour over the salad. Toss to combine.
  • Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Potential Side Effects of Blackberries

Are there any side effects of the blackberry? Well, the tannins in blackberries are safe enough to be consumed in small quantities without producing any harmful effects. That being said, there is some evidence that suggests that a very large amount of tannins, including those found in teas, may increase tumor size in cancer patients. This is why those with a history of cancer should avoid teas with blackberry root or leaf.

People susceptible to kidney stones should also minimize their blackberry consumption. This is because the oxalates in blackberries and other fruit may increase kidney stone production.

Some people also experience mild allergic reactions from blackberries. Discontinue use immediately when there is itching or swelling of the hands, lips, or mouth after eating the fruit.

Final Thoughts on Blackberries

Some may call blackberries a superfood. There is definitely a good argument with that. Let’s look at a few key takeaways from this feature on blackberries:

  • Blackberries are an incredibly high source of valuable nutrients, including fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese.
  • Many of the health benefits of blackberries are associated with its ridiculously high antioxidant load, especially with the amount of anthocyanin polyphenols.
  • Blackberries may also protect the brain from damage, reduce inflammation, support skin and oral health, and protect against cardiovascular disease.
  • Lastly, blackberries are a very versatile fruit that complements desserts and even salads. Be sure to choose organic blackberries when you can.

Sources:
“6 Amazing Health Benefits of Blackberries,” Dr. Axe; https://draxe.com/health-benefits-blackberries/, last accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
Butler, N., “Blackberries: Health Benefits and Nutrition Information,” healthline, June 21, 2017; http://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#overview1.
“15 Best Blackberry Benefits,” Organic Facts; https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/blackberries.html, last accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
“Blackberries, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories,” SELFNutritionData; http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1848/2, last accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
Jorgustin, K., “Top High ORAC Value Antioxidant Foods,” Modern Survival Blog, July 18, 2017; http://modernsurvivalblog.com/health/high-orac-value-antioxidant-foods-top-100/.
Murapa, P., et al., “Anthocyanin-rich fractions of blackberry extracts reduce UV-induced free radicals and oxidative damage in keratinocytes,” Phytotherapy Research, January 2012; 26(1): 106-112, doi: 10.1002/ptr.3510.
Danaher, R.J., et al., “Antiviral effects of blackberry extract against herpes simplex virus type 1,” Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontics, September 2011; 112(3): e31-35, doi: 10.1016/j.tripleo.2011.04.007.
Gonzalez, O.A., et al., “Antibacterial Effects of Blackberry Extract Target Periodontopathogens,” Journal of Periodontal Research, February 2013; 48(1): 80-86, doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0765.2012.01506.x.
Serraino, I., et al., “Protective effects of cyaniding-3-O-glucoside from blackberry extract against peroxynitrite-induced endothelial dysfunction and vascular failure,” Life Science, July 18, 2003; 73(9): 1097-1114. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12818719/.
Azofeifa, G., et al., “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in vitro activities of phenolic compounds from tropical highland blackberries (Rubus adenotrichos),” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 19, 2013; 61(24): 5798-5804, doi: 10.1021/j400781m.
Sangiovanni, E., et al., “Ellagitannins from Rubus berries for the control of gastric inflammation: in vitro and in vivo studies,” PLoS One, Aug. 5, 2013; 8(8):e71762, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071762.
Shukitt-Hale, B., “Effects of blackberries on motor and cognitive function in aged rats,” Nutritional Neuroscience, July 19, 2013; 3, 135-140, doi: 10.1179/147683009X423292.
Tavares, L., et al., “Nauroprotective effects of digested polyphenols from wild blackberry species,” European Journal of Nutrition, February 2013; 52(1): 225-236. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22314351.
Ding, M., et al., “Cyanidin-3-glucoside, a natural product derived from blackberry, exhibits chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, June 23, 2006; 281(25): 17359-17368. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16618699.
Seeram, N.P., et al., “Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dec. 13, 2006; 54(25): 9329-9339. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17147415.
Walker, L., “Black Manchego Salad,” Joyous Health, Nov. 10, 2015; https://www.joyoushealth.com/23064-blog-blackberry-manchego-salad.




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Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »