Blackberries peak in the warmer months, and you may want to consider making room for them in your next fruit salad. Not only are they delicious, they are packed with vitamins and nutrients your diet could be missing. Read more below to find out how these berries can benefit you!
When it comes to summer fruits, blueberries, peaches, and the like often steal the show. But blackberries, which also peak in the warmer months, deserve a spot in your fruit salads and smoothies. Between their inky purple color and tasty tart flavor, there’s a lot to love about blackberries — and considering they’re packed with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, it’s a shame they’re often overlooked. Read on for all the need-to-know info 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’re part of the “bramble” or “caneberry” group of fruits, which also includes raspberries, according to the University of Kentucky. Additionally, blackberries are native to eastern North America, according to North Carolina State University.
Plot twist: Despite their name, blackberries aren’t technically berries. In botany, a true berry is defined as a single fruit with seeds and fleshy pulp (think blueberries or cranberries), according to an article in the journal Antioxidants. In contrast, blackberries are botanically known as aggregate fruits, meaning they’re made of multiple tiny, round, fleshy fruits called drupelets, as noted by Colorado State University. These drupelets grow in a cluster — forming what we know as a blackberry — and each one contains a tiny seed.
All that said, blackberries are commonly referred to as berries and are similar to berries in terms of nutrition and how they’re eaten, so this article will refer to them as such.
Blackberries offer essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and even some calcium, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Furthermore blackberries, like other berries, are excellent sources of antioxidants. This is due to their high levels of anthocyanins, aka antioxidant plant pigments that give produce a purple, blue, and/or red color, according to an article in the journal Molecules. (FYI, anthocyanins are also found in apples, plums, grapes, and other fruits.)
Check out the nutritional profile of 1 cup (~144 grams) of raw blackberries, according to the USDA:
- 62 calories
- 2 grams protein
- < 1 gram fat
- 14 grams carbohydrates
- 8 grams fiber
- 7 grams sugar
Health Benefits of Blackberries
Those impressive blackberry nutrition facts translate to multiple perks. Here, learn aboutblackberry health benefits, according to dietitians and research.
May Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease
If you’re looking to boost your intake of antioxidants, reach for blackberries. Blackberries offer antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C, quercetin, tannins, and anthocyanins, as mentioned above, notes Sandy Younan Brikho, M.D.A., R.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of The Dish on Nutrition. This is notable because antioxidants can help protect your body against oxidative stress, a major player in the development of chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Here’s the lowdown: Oxidative stress occurs when cell-damaging molecules called free radicals accumulate in your body. This can happen due to risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, environmental pollution, or certain eating habits, according to an article in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. (High fat and high carb diets, especially, are linked to oxidative stress, according to an article in Foods.) Antioxidants (including those found in blackberries) neutralize these free radicals, ultimately preventing them from causing cellular damage, says registered dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, M.S., R.D.N. Thus, eating plenty of blackberries and other antioxidant-rich foods may help control oxidative stress and lower your risk of chronic disease.
May Support Immune Function
Another blackberry benefit involves your immune system. As noted, blackberries are chock-full of vitamin C — one cup holds 30 milligrams, a good chunk of the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 90 and 75 milligrams for men and women, respectively. This nutrient is vital for healthy immune function, as noted by an article in the journal 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 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What’s more, 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 sickness, loading up on blackberries might help.
May Promote Neurological Health
As an antioxidant-rich food, the humble blackberry benefits your noggin too. Case in point: The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, especially in older people, according to an article in Neurobiology of Aging. The oxidative stress can damage neurons, or nerve cells, potentially leading to neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, explains Pasquariello. But when consumed regularly, the antioxidants in blackberries can help by minimizing oxidative stress, thereby protecting your brain from damage.
Promote Healthy Digestion
The health benefits of blackberries evenextend to your gut. The juicy fruit contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, according to Virginia Tech. This is great news for your GI tract, as both types have perks for digestive health. Insoluble fiber (which doesn’t dissolve in water) can increase stool bulk, as Shape previously reported. The increase in bulk can help stool pass easily through the digestive tract, potentially reducing constipation, says Brikho. In contrast, soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. This can firm up stool, helping ease diarrhea.
Support Blood Clotting and Bone Health
Other blackberry health benefits may 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 K, about 30 percent of the RDA of the nutrient. “In the body, [vitamin K] helps assemble the proteins that [stop] bleeding, helping a wound close up and ultimately heal,” explains Pasquariello. Vitamin K is also involved in creating proteins needed for the production of strong bone tissue, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In fact, vitamin K deficiency is associated with osteoporosis, a chronic condition marked by weak and porous bones.
Potential Risks of Blackberries
According to Brikho, blackberries aren’t known to interact with any drugs, foods, or diseases, so they’re relatively safe to eat. There are also very few cases reporting blackberry allergies (or berry allergies in general), but they do exist, according to an article in the journal 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, & Immunology.
How to Buy and Eat Blackberries
“In the grocery store, you can find blackberries in various forms, like jam, jelly, lemonade, [and] pie filling,” explains Brikho. Whole blackberries — which you can buy fresh or frozen — are the most nutritionally dense choices, she adds. The reason? Fresh and frozen blackberries are free of ingredients such as added sugar and salt, allowing you to get the most out of blackberry nutrition.
When shopping for blackberries, look for berries that are shiny, plump, and firm, as suggested by Purdue University. Skip any berries that are mushy or bruised, which might indicate spoilage. At home, store blackberries uncovered in the refrigerator for up to two days, but don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat, as recommended by the University of Arkansas. Otherwise, the moisture will make them spoil quickly. You can also freeze blackberries by spreading them onto a rimmed baking sheet, then placing it in the freezer overnight. (This will prevent the berries from sticking together.) Once frozen, store the berries in freezer-safe air-tight bags or containers, and enjoy within six to eight months.
Blackberry Recipe Ideas
Ripe, fresh 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 are so many sweet and savory [ways to use] them,” as Pasquariello points out. Here are a few tasty ways to enjoy the health benefits of blackberries:
In smoothies. One of the easiest ways to reap blackberries’ benefits is to make a smoothie or smoothie bowl. Try combining them with other berries — e.g. strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries — or banana and pineapple for a tropical twist.
In salads. Take a tip from Pasquariello and toss halved blackberries into your next salad. “They pair beautifully [in] a summer salad made with baby kale, fresh tomatoes, toasted chickpeas, and almonds,” she notes.
In mocktails. With the help of blackberries, you can naturally sweeten your next mocktail recipe. “Muddle 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,” says Pasquariello.
With meat. The tart sweetness of blackberries complements the savory flavor of meat, as proven by these pork medallions with blackberry chutney from Martha Stewart. Don’t eat red meat? Try this blackberry glazed chicken thigh recipe from food blog Flavour & Savour.
On toast. For a simpler take on jam or jelly, dress up your toast with fresh blackberries. They pair especially well with creamy ingredients such as butter, cream cheese, or ricotta. Another mouthwatering option is to top crusty sourdough with blackberries, brie, and honey, notes Pasquariello.