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Are blackberries better for you than blueberries? A handful offers these benefits

The deep color of blackberries is a sign of powerful antioxidants.
ripe fresh blackberries on a red background top view.
Blackberries are high in fiber and low in calories.Vladimir Venediktov / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Berries are nutrition powerhouses, full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Blueberries get the most attention, but blackberries — which share their dark color — offer their own impressive health benefits.

That “deep, deep, deep” bluish purple hue is an important signal of powerful nutrients, says registered dietitian Maya Feller of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition.

“That’s where we’re seeing anthocyanins,” Feller tells TODAY.com, referring to bioactive compounds in plants that provide the characteristic blue pigment and act as antioxidants.

“And that’s just really beneficial for human health on the whole.”

That's likely why registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty includes blackberries on her list of the top 15 healthiest fruits.

Blackberry nutrition

Blackberries are high in fiber and low in calories. One cup of the raw fruit contains the following, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • 62 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 14 grams of carbohydrates
  • 7 grams of fiber
  • 7 grams of sugar

Blackberries have no cholesterol and virtually no fat. They contain lots of nutrients including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, selenium, and vitamins C, E and K.

Blackberry health benefits

Blackberries are rich in phytochemicals — compounds that plants produce for their own protection — including polyphenols, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and heart-protective properties, Feller notes.

When researchers analyzed the antioxidant content in berries, blackberries contained more antioxidants than strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and even blueberries, according to Dr. Michael Greger, a founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and author of “How Not to Die.”

“We can get more than twice the bang for our buck choosing blackberries over strawberries,” he says on his website.

Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals — damaging particles generated when the body performs regular processes we need for life. This reduces systemic inflammation and may protect against some cancers, Feller notes.

The antioxidant properties of berries in particular “seem to offer a notable arsenal that reduces risk of cancer,” studies have found.

Besides counteracting, reducing and repairing damage from oxidative stress and inflammation, berries “may also boost our levels of natural killer cells,” Greger writes on his website. These are immune cells that can kill tumor cells or those infected with a virus, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The fiber in blackberries supports gut health and overall cardiovascular health, Feller says.

When people with high cholesterol were given supplements of anthocyanin — that bioactive compound in blackberries that gives it their dark blue color — for 24 weeks, they had lower inflammation, higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol than people who took a placebo, a study found.

Research shows blackberries may help promote insulin sensitivity and protect against obesity, Cassetty writes.

Blackberries also support brain health because their high fiber content helps to keep blood sugar steady, and there’s a link between insulin resistance and neurodegenerative diseases, Feller adds.

“When we are thinking about the endocrine system on the whole — keeping blood sugar level, keeping blood pressure level, keeping your lipids low — all of that, in turn, actually supports a healthy brain,” she says.

In addition, anthocyanins may decrease brain oxidative stress, inflammation and degeneration, potentially improving cognition and neuroprotection, studies have found.

Are blackberries better for you than blueberries?

“I wouldn’t actually rank them and say this one is better than the other. I’d say all berries have those similar activities. Eat the ones that you prefer and that you have access to,” Feller says.

Berries can be expensive. If you can afford them, choose the kind that tastes the best to you and is available in your area, she adds.

Greger simply encourages people to eat berries every day and always have bags of frozen berries in their freezer — “whichever ones you like,” he advises on his website.

He recommends one daily serving of berries, which amounts to half a cup of fresh or frozen berries, or a quarter cup dried.

Frozen berries are picked at the height of the growing season so they’re as nutritious as fresh ones, Feller adds.

How to eat blackberries

You can eat them fresh on their own as a healthy snack, or add them to oatmeal, yogurt, a smoothie or a fruit salad.

Try a blackberry compote that can be served over ice cream or blackberry-pistachio custard toast.

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