Nurture Women's Health with a Berry Diet
Women face distinct health issues that affect them more commonly than they realize. Chronic disease isn’t inevitable. For many of us, a balanced and varied diet is a proven prerequisite for well-being. However, women face distinct health issues related to nutrition that affect them more commonly than they realize. At any age, it’s never too late to assess your eating habits and integrate small changes to support your health. Below are a few ways that eating fresh berries can contribute to women’s health.
Every year, more women than men die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death among women in the United States. Studies have shown that diets containing a high amount of flavonoids (a broad class of plant pigments) have a significant protective impact. These natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables are especially high in berries. They reduce inflammation and discourage the processes that set the stage for cardiovascular disease, like the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and clumping together of cell fragments known as platelets, which can lead to blood clots and stroke.
More than 12 million women in the United States have diabetes, a statistic that translates into 10.8% of all women 20 years or older. In addition, 79 million people are thought to have pre-diabetes. A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating more blueberries, as well as apples and pears, may lower your risk. After tracking the eating patterns of 200,000 participants, about 12,600 of them developed diabetes over the course of the 24-year study period. Those who reported the highest intake of blueberries had a 23% reduced risk of developing the disease compared with those who ate no blueberries. These results took into account other risk factors, such as weight, smoking and family history, and mirrored similar findings in a smaller study done in Finland.
High Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure over time is serious. It can lead to heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. For women, 3 out of 5 cases of heart failure are caused by high blood pressure. Participants in a 14-year study who ate at least one serving of blueberries a day showed a 10% decreased risk for high blood pressure compared with those who ate no blueberries. In the same study, those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries overall, had an 8% decreased risk of developing high blood pressure. Researchers believe that antioxidant-rich foods like berries have a dilating, or widening, effect on blood vessels because of the fruit's flavonoid content.
About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer over her lifetime, and currently there are more than 2 million breast-cancer survivors, many of whom are concerned with recurrence. Cancer-fighting ellagic acid appears in high amounts in strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. In test-tube and animal studies, these compounds have been shown to stop the growth of breast, colon and esophageal cancer cells.
Eighty percent of osteoporosis sufferers are women. Studies have consistently shown that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables has a positive effect on bone density. Scientists believe the carotenoids in these foods may decrease bone depletion from oxidation. In the Framingham Osteoporosis Study published in 2009, researchers tracked the diets of 874 men and women with an average age of 75. Those who consumed the highest amount of carotenoids appeared to have higher bone mineralization, particularly in the lower spine for women and in the hips for men. Carotenoids are a type of phytochemical in plants, natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright red, orange and yellow colors.