In terms of cancer, plant foods are more protective than animal foods and data suggest that bioactive components in berries may be important in cancer prevention.
One important compound found in (red) raspberries, strawberries and brambles is the tannin called ellagic acid. This is a phenolic compound with potent antioxidant properties. Laboratory experiments report that rodents fed ellagic acid before, and during, exposure to carcinogens develop less liver, lung and oesophageal cancers than rats fed a normal diet but no reliable data is available on the impact of human exposure. The mechanisms of ellagic acid are probably related to detoxification enzymes in the liver which enhance the removal of dangerous harmful substances from the body. Whilst ellagic acid is available as a supplement it is not recommended (several trials of nutrient supplements have shown dangerous effects).
However, including berries as a regular part of Five A Day when in season seems a great idea for Scots. The Berry Scotland programme was initiated almost 20 years ago to promote the production and consumption of Scottish berries by people in Scotland. Whilst the group members no longer meet we can see a lasting impact of the initiative on the current marketing and availability of soft fruit. The group even had some success in getting local berries into school meals, showing an increase in school meal uptake on days that berries were served.
What to do with berries:
This article was originally published in The SCPN Newsletter Volume 8, Issue 3. Read the digital newsletter below using Issuu, or feel free to download the PDF.View the PDF