What Are the Benefits of Red Raspberries?

Red raspberries are more than a doughnut filling or a topping on cheesecake. These bright berries pack a nutritional punch, loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to maintain good health. Red raspberries are also low in calories, which makes them a safe addition to any diet. Along with the nutritional content, red raspberries contain plant compounds that offer several health protective benefits.

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Heart Protection

Red raspberries contain a compound called anthocyanin, which is a pigment that gives the raspberry its red color. Anthocyanins may reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of "The Journal of Nutrition." In the study, rats that were fed a diet of foods rich in anthocyanins for eight weeks showed resistance to heart damage and inflammation. Researchers concludes that anthocyanins, such as those in red raspberries, contribute to heart health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S. Something as simple as adding red raspberries to your diet may help you prevent heart disease 3.

Eye Protection

Eating a handful of red raspberries can help protect your eyes from deterioration. The same anthocyanins that may have cardiovascular benefits also work to help you keep your eyes healthy. Researchers at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Canada reported that the retina in the eye has the highest metabolic rate of any tissue in the body, which makes it more susceptible to damage. When they examined the effects of anthocyanins and other plant compounds on vision, they found that they have a direct interaction with rhodopsin, which is the photosensitive pigment in the eye that helps you see in dim light. The results of their study, published in April 2010 in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry," indicate that anthocyanins protect the eye tissue from oxidative or stress-induced cell death 4.

Cancer Protection

Cancer is listed as the second leading cause of death in the U.S. by the CDC, and more than 1 million new cases are diagnosed each year. When it comes to cancer protection, red raspberries contain a plant compound called ellagic acid, which can help fight cancer cells. A May 2010 issue of "Cancer Prevention Research" reports on a study in which ellagic acid was found to suppress the development and growth of breast cancer tumors 5. Ellagic acid also fights other cancers and has been shown to absorb readily into the body's cells, according to a report from the Medical University of South Carolina published in the September 2006 issue of "The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology."

Diabetes Protection

Eating red raspberries can also help prevent and regulate high blood sugar. According to a report from the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, ellagic acid and other red raspberry compounds make insulin action more effective by lowering the body's insulin resistance and overall blood sugar levels 7. The sugar substitute xylitol is also extracted from red raspberries. Xylitol is not absorbed into the bloodstream as quickly as sugar is, which makes it a good alternative sweetener for diabetics because it does not raise blood sugar levels.