By Pip Hansen — There’s nothing that says summer quite like delicious, sun-sweet berries. Maine is well known for it’s short but delicious strawberry season, but let’s not let that overshadow the many other berries summer kindly supplies us – especially the sweet yet tart blackberry (scientific name Rubus).
Beneath it’s deliciousness, the blackberry hides a host of health benefits. Just one cup provides about half of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C, which is vital to collagen formation for your bones, connectives tissues and blood vessels. They’re also high in fibre, something that most people do not get enough of in their diets; fiber is vital to a healthy digestive system. Blackberries provide vitamin K (important in blood clotting and bone metabolism) and manganese (vital to healthy bone development, your immune system and all importnat collagen production).
The tiny blueish-black parcels of joy may also boost brain and oral health, they’re low-carb if that’s your thing (a cup has roughly 62 calories, 1 gram of fat and only 14 carbs), and they have a low on the glycemic index (25) so are less likely to spike your blood sugars. In summation, there’s an argument for calling the blackberry a superfood.
So, all hail the wonderful blackberry – though it turns out the blackberry isn’t actually a berry at all! It’s what’s known as an aggregate fruit, unlike it’s “cousin” the cranberry (scientific name Vaccinium subg. Oxycoccus), which is a true berry. It too is sweet and tart and hides it’s healthy secrets within it’s dark, shiny red skin.
You might associate cranberries with the holiday season, but after learning of the health benefits, you might want to add them to your diet year-round. Probably the most well-known benefit is that cranberries are packed with antioxidants (ranking just below the mighty blueberry, king of the antioxidants) in their potency. Studies have shown that people who eat cranberries have lower levels of C-reactive protein, a blood marker of inflammation connected to triggering premature aging, chronic illness and cognitive decline.
But that’s not all – these little red, bouncy berries improve artery flexibility, which means better blood flow and circulation, which can reduce pressure on your heart and lower blood pressure. Evidence also suggests that cranberries further protect the heart by reducing LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one), triglycerides (blood fats), and insulin resistance. Certain compounds in the berry have been shown to slow tumorigenesis, including in breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer.
Among it’s other superpowers is helping to rebalance the beneficial gut bacteria that is connected with digestive health, immunity and even your mood. The high levels of vitamin C support your immune system (again by helping create collagen) and if you ever thought drinking cranberry juice for urinary health was an old wive’s tale – it’s not! Cranberries interfere (in the best possible way) with the ability of bacteria to stick on the walls of the urinary tract.
Recent studies on cranberries have focused on the berry’s ability to interrupt the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. This is research that has the potential for creating significant and long-lasting benefits on both human and animal health. As bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they become immune to them – which has lead to antibiotic resistant “super” bugs. Researchers found that adding cranberry extract with antibiotic dosage prevented resistance from developing by making the bacterial wall more permeable to the antibiotic and making it harder for the bacteria to attempt to pump the antibiotic out.
So now you can enjoy these wonder berries just that little bit more, knowing that they’re helping your body in so many ways. Add them (fresh or dried) to your granola, make a compote to enjoy with dessert, a sauce for your turkey or, enjoy them in a cocktail!
This really tastes like summer!
Servings: 1 cocktail
Blackberry Simple Syrup
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Purple Haze Cocktail
- 1½ oz vodka
- ½ oz blackberry simple syrup
- 2 oz unsweetened cranberry juice
- Mint spring, for garnish
- Blackberries, for garnish
Blackberry Simple Syrup
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to low boil.
- When berries begin to break down, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Pour through a mesh strainer, squeezing pulp to extract any remaining juice from berries.
- Let cool and refrigerate in covered container for up to one week.
Purple Haze Cocktail
- Fill shaker with ice. Add vodka and blackberry simple syrup. Shake well.
- Fill glass with ice. Pour contents of shaker over ice and top with cranberry juice.
- Garnish with mint and blackberries.
- To make a nonalcoholic version, simply omit the vodka and top up with cranberry juice.
- This recipe makes enough simple syrup for a number of cocktails. Refrigerate leftover syrup for up to one week.