By Dr. Paul Gross
Where do red raspberries grow and what characteristics do the berries have?
Reds grow wild in temperate zones from the mid-south US to near-Arctic latitudes of northern Canada and are cultivated mainly in northern US states, particularly Oregon, and southern Canada. Raspberries grow on every continent except Antarctica (understandable) and Australia. Approximately 1 million pounds of red raspberries are harvested commercially worldwide, with Russia, the USA and Poland contributing together nearly half of the total.
The genus Rubus contains over 740 species as perennial, deciduous, woody shrubs with long vines (“brambles”) covered by thorns. Rubus also includes roses and diverse other major fruits, including strawberries, apples, pears and peaches.
What do raspberries have in common with apples and strawberries?
At first blush, it may be difficult to find common characteristics between an apple and a strawberry or red raspberry. Not only are the edible fruits very different, but also there is wide disparity between sizes and structures of the plant itself and its fruit. One important botanical similarity, however, is the structure of the flower, as all these fruit plants typically have 5-7 white/pink petals around a central cluster of yellow stamens.
What is a “bramble” and is this the same as a “cane”?
A bramble is any plant belonging to the genus Rubus, of which the most commonly known– and enjoyed– are the red or black raspberry and blackberry, each having numerous hybrids. There are also some hybrids between the red raspberry and blackberry, such as boysenberries and loganberries.
Saying “bramble” is just a quick way to say “raspberries, blackberries, and related berry plants with thorny vines.” Mainly in Oregon, these fruits are also called “caneberries” because they grow on woody stems called canes.
What is it about red raspberries that consumers most like?
Red raspberries are a healthy addition to everyone’s diet. This fruit has a unique delicious taste and is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Possibly the most promising benefit from consuming red raspberries is their substantial quantity of ellagic acid, a phenolic antioxidant compound known as a potent anti-carcinogenic compound. Clinical tests show that ellagic acid may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Nutritious raspberries are a great addition to recipes or as a healthy fresh snack by the handful. Raspberries don’t have to be fresh to be nutritious, as quick-frozen and canned berries retain most of the fresh fruit qualities.
Flash freezing, which is used to make IQF (immediately quick frozen) red raspberries, helps trap nutrients and plant chemicals immediately after harvest and provides for a healthier fruit.
Oil from red raspberry seeds is popular as a skin moisturizer, as it is high in vitamin C, alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid). The oil also has potent sun-blocking properties (SPF rating above 25).
The leaves of the red raspberry score highly in antioxidant assays and are popular in tea blends, providing an exceptional source of antioxidant tannins to the beverage.
What nutrients stand out in the red raspberry? Red raspberries are one of the plant world’s richest sources of vitamin C (30 mg per serving of 1 cup, about 50% Daily Value), manganese (about 60% Daily Value) and dietary fiber (20% of weight or 30% Daily Value). The berry is also loaded with vitamin A, B vitamins 1-3, iron, calcium and potassium.
Reds rank near the top of all fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of ellagic acid (from ellagotannins), quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. All these are phenolic antioxidants with promising health benefits.
What is the antioxidant strength of red raspberries?
Due to their rich contents of antioxidant vitamins A and C and the phenolics mentioned above, red raspberries have an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 4900 per 100 grams, which makes them among the top-ranked ORAC fruits. Cranberries and wild blueberries have around 9000 ORAC units and apples average 2800.
What does medical research say about the health properties of red raspberries?
The following anti-disease properties have been isolated in experimental models. Although there are no clinical studies to date proving these effects in humans, medical research shows likely benefit of regularly consuming red raspberries against:
• Cardiovascular disease
• Age-related cognitive decline
• Degeneration of eyesight with aging
* US National Library of Medicine, PubMed, pubmed.gov
* University of Georgia on Rubus species, www.uga.edu/fruit/rubus.htm
* Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, www.oregon-berries.com
* Washington Raspberry Commission, www.red-raspberry.org/
* Wikipedia on Raspberries, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry
* World’s Healthiest Foods on Raspberries, whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=39
Copyright 2006 Berry Health Inc.
Dr. Paul Gross is a scientist and expert on cardiovascular and brain physiology. A published researcher, Gross recently completed a book on the Chinese wolfberry and has begun another on antioxidant berries. Gross is founder of Berry Health Inc, a developer of nutritional, berry-based supplements. For more information, visit www.berrywiseonline.com
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