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In our neighborhood here in northern California, there are many places where we can forage wild blackberries from late summer into fall. When I go out to harvest wild blackberries I am reminded to be mindful of the thorns that these plants have on their stems and leaves. Blackberries are in the rose family, so it is not surprising to find thorns on these plants. Here is a nutrient analysis of one cup of blackberries (144 g):

Blackberries – 1 cup Adult Daily Requirements
Calories 62 varies
Calcium 42 1000 mg, 1200 mg
Iron 0.9 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women,  18 mg for premenopausal women
Magnesium 29 310 – 320 mg for women,  400 – 420 mg for men
Potassium 233 4,700 mg
Zinc 0.8 8 mg for women, 11 mg for men

In reality, I eat more than one cup of blackberries in one sitting, so here is a nutrient analysis of 3½ cups of blackberries (504 g):

Blackberries – 3½ cups Adult Daily Requirements
Calories 217 varies
Calcium 246 1000 mg, 1200 mg
Iron 3.1 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women,  18 mg for premenopausal women
Magnesium 101 310 – 320 mg for women,  400 – 420 mg for men
Potassium 816 4,700 mg
Zinc 2.7 8 mg for women, 11 mg for men

Often, people in the raw food community ask me if fruits are good source of minerals. The answer is that it depends on the fruit and how much one is eating of that fruit. As we can see, blackberries eaten in quantity can be a significant source of the minerals stated in the table above.

Not only can blackberries be a good source of certain important minerals, they are also well known for being a good source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals before they cause damage to our cells.

A 2006 study measured the antioxidant content of over 1,000 foods and listed the 50 with the highest antioxidant content per 100 grams. Blackberries are number 19 on the list with 3.99 mmol antioxidants per 100 g. Foods that were higher than blackberries include ground cloves, oregano, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, walnuts, basil, and others. For a full list please watch the video associated with this blog post or view the study listed in the reference section.

There is a challenge with measuring the antioxidant content of foods per 100 grams, given that one must consider how much of these foods one would actually eat in one sitting. Does it make sense that someone is going to eat 100 grams of cloves in one sitting? No, usually when one adds cloves to a recipe, the amount is usually around 1 teaspoon (2.1 grams) or a similar amount. However, it does make sense that one would eat 100 grams of blackberries (a little less than ¾ cup) or much more as mentioned earlier. When antioxidant content was measured per serving size, blackberries topped the list at 5.75 mmol antioxidants per cup, followed by walnuts, strawberries, artichokes, cranberries, and others. Ground cloves were further down on the list at number 10 with 2.64 mmol of antioxidants per teaspoon. Per serving, blackberries had the highest in antioxidants per serving than all other foods tested, which would include other high antioxidant berries like blueberries and raspberries.

What are some of the antioxidants found in blackberries? One type is anthocyanins, which are famous for their blue coloring. Other examples of anthocyanin containing foods include blueberries and raspberries.

Here is a video explaining this information with some added facts on the nutrient content of figs:

References:

Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, Bøhn SK, Holte K, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. Content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):95-135.

Nutrient content of blackberries: USDA nutrient database

 

But isn’t fruit controversial for some reason?

To make it easy for people to find reliable information on fruit, the glycemic index, glycemic load, fructose, glucose, and carbohydrates in general, we dedicated a chapter in our book, The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook: An Essential Guide to Understanding Raw Food Diets to answering many common carbohydrate questions.

In the book we also cover other hot topics in raw food nutrition such as essential fats, protein, nutrient content of raw food diets, food combining, enzymes, hydration, vitamins, minerals, and many more. We value education on these important topics and are happy to finally bring this book to you. The book is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.

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Ah, the holidays! Ever since I was a young girl I looked forward to the month of December for its festivities and time spent with family and friends. When I started on my raw food journey in 1990, I designed raw alternatives of my favorite holiday dishes and desserts to share with my loved ones. I included one of my recipes in an earlier blog post – butternut squash pudding, which has become a new holiday tradition in my family.

Spices that are often used in holiday recipes have been studied for their antioxidant content. The antioxidant activity of the compounds found in spices and foods has been measured using a system called ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity. An ORAC value of a food is a measurement of the ability of antioxidants in the food to neutralize free radicals in vitro (in a test tube or laboratory). The ORAC measurement has been questioned by members of the scientific community because it is measured in vitro and not in living organisms (in vivo). A free radical is a molecule with an unpaired electron that can cause damage to cells in our body.

Much is currently known about nutrition, and there is much that we have yet to learn. Our scientific, clinical, and experiential knowledge about nutrition is incomplete and will continue to increase as our inquiry in this area progresses. I personally would be interested to see the ORAC values of foods measured in humans and other living beings (in vivo). Hopefully this information will be available sometime in the future.

Here is a sampling of holiday spices and their respective ORAC values:

Total ORAC value (µmol TE/100 g)
Cinnamon, ground 131,420
Cloves, ground 290,283
Ginger, ground 39,041
Nutmeg, ground 69,640

I was amazed to see the high ORAC value of these spices, especially when compared to popular high ORAC value foods, such as:

Blackberries 5,905
Blueberries 4,669
Wild blueberries 9,621
Raspberries 5,065

 

Bueberries, raspberries, and blackberries

One might think, based on this information, that cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg are superior sources of antioxidant activity to the fruits stated above. The spices are superior, PER 100 GRAMS. Please note that ORAC values for foods are reported per 100 grams.

But how much of each of these spices do we actually consume in a serving? Let’s do some simple calculations using ground cloves as an example. A typical 9” round pumpkin pie recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves. ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves weighs approximately 1 gram. The ORAC value for 100 grams of ground cloves is 290,283. If we divide this number by 100, we get a value of almost 2903 for 1 g of ground cloves in a whole pumpkin pie.

Now, there are generally 8 pieces in an average pumpkin pie. So, if we divide 2903 by 8 we get a value of about 363 for the 0.125 grams of ground cloves in one piece of pumpkin pie. Given that ORAC values are tested and reported per 100 grams of food, I cannot say that 363 is THE ORAC value for the 0.125 grams of ground cloves found in the piece of pie. I would need actual studies to confirm or deny this number, since other possible contributory factors must be taken into account. The bottom line here is that one needs to consider nutritional information, such as ORAC values, in the context of the amounts that one actually eats.

For comparison with another type of food, let’s consider the ORAC value and the amount of blackberries in one serving. The ORAC value for 100 g of blackberries is 5,905. One cup of blackberries weighs 144 g, so the ORAC value for 100 g of blackberries is very roughly equivalent to ⅔ of a cup, which could be considered a small serving of blackberries. Whenever I eat blackberries, I usually eat more than ⅔ cup, as do many raw food enthusiasts that I know.

Looking at the actual serving sizes of ground cloves and blackberries, one can strongly question the ORAC superiority of ground cloves to blackberries, or any of the other fruits shown in the table above. Of course, we would need more information on the antioxidant activity in the amount of cloves found in a piece of pumpkin pie to make a more definitive statement.

I would love to see researchers take into account such information when doing their studies, since this would make their information more meaningful and applicable to daily life. In the meantime, we must employ our skills of critical thinking when we hear such pieces of information out of context. Critical thinking is essential in many aspects of life, including the realm of nutrition information. We will address critical thinking in future blog posts.

For those of you interested in delving more deeply into this subject, here are some interesting points to note:

  1. The ORAC values reported are for dried and ground spices. I am curious to know if/how the ORAC value would differ in the fresh versions of these spices, especially ginger, since it is a naturally water-rich root.
  2. ORAC values are measured by weight, per 100 grams. I would like to see an ORAC value comparison per calorie, and as stated earlier, per serving size.
  3. If the food in question is part of a recipe or processed food, what other ingredients and/or processing methods can affect the ORAC value of that food?

For more information on the ORAC values of various foods, please visit: USDA nutrient database and USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 – May 2010

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

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Today was an especially hot day (over 90º F) in Sonoma County and aside from the leaves on the maple tree in my front yard turning red, one would hardly guess that autumn is upon us. One of the many things that I love about northern California is late summer blackberries. Even though these beautiful and tasty berries are available throughout the summer and into the fall, I love berry picking in September since a number of the berries on a given bush are ripe and practically fall into my hands as I pick them. My favorite blackberry bush is located in a park close to my house where I find myself checking on the progress of the berries from time to time during the summer months when I pass by while out on a run or walk.

Blackberries

Today, I picked some to enjoy in a green smoothie. Here are some nutrient highlights of blackberries:

One cup (144 grams) of blackberries contains 62 calories, 33% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C, 4% of the DV for calcium, 5% of the DV for iron, 7% of the DV for magnesium, 5% of the DV for potassium, 7% of the DV for zinc. One cup of blackberries also contains 184 mcg of beta carotene and 170 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin. Blackberries have been studied for their antioxidant content, including anthocyanins which may lend a red, purple or blue color to various fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries and raspberries.

Bueberries, raspberries, and blackberries

Given that one cup of blackberries contains 62 calories, which is 3% of the calories consumed on a 2,000 calorie diet, blackberries contain reasonable percentages of the important nutrients mentioned above.

Source for nutrient information on blackberries: USDA nutrient database

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