Mulberries are one of nature’s true superfoods. If you’re considering adding this nutritious berry to your diet, this guide will tell you what you need to know.
Foods with very high concentrations of antioxidants, vitamins, or other beneficial nutrients are often labeled as superfoods. The mulberry fruit produced by trees of the same name are recommended by a variety of nutrition experts like Dr. Oz for a number of health benefits associated with it. The berry is also being studied by researchers as a possible tool for preventing diabetes and helping diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels.
Mulberries are considered a superfood in large part because of the high amounts of antioxidants and resveratrol. Antioxidants are molecules that fight the harmful effects of the oxidation reactions occurring in the body. Though these reactions are critical for survival, they can also damage or kill cells and cause chronic excessive inflammation that lead to disease. Antioxidants are believed to help prevent health problems like cancer and heart disease.
Resveratrol is a natural substance found in many plants. It has been the subject of numerous studies and has been found to:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers
- Protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by UV rays
- Decrease inflammation in the body
- Inhibit the replication of the herpes simplex virus
- Possibly improve insulin sensitivity in older people who are obese
For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015
The Mulberry’s Role in Diabetes Prevention
The leaves of white mulberries contain a substance called 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ) that inhibits the absorption of sugar. One study reported on by the American Diabetes Association included twenty participants aged twenty-four to seventy-five, half of whom had type 2 diabetes. The subjects were randomly given either a gram of mulberry extract or a placebo mixed with hot water. The participants were then given sugar, after which their blood sugar levels were checked. The researchers found that people who ingested the mulberry mixture had lower blood glucose levels, which indicated reduced sugar ingestion.
If further studies produce the same results, the mulberry tree may hold the key to diabetes prevention for those in high-risk categories and better blood sugar control for those with type 2 diabetes. It’s believed the same sugar-blocking results can be obtained by drinking mulberry tea.
Besides resveratrol and antioxidants, mulberries have several nutrients that are beneficial to your health.
- Vitamin A: Carrots aren’t the only food with this important nutrient for eye health and skin
- Vitamin B6 and B12: Helps with metabolism of amino acids and the production of blood cells in bone marrow, proteins, and nerve sheaths
- Vitamin C: Supports the immune system; helps improve skin
- Vitamin E: An antioxidant that also plays a role in neurological functions
- Vitamin K: Necessary for blood coagulation
- Riboflavin and choline: Needed for a wide variety of cellular processes
- Niacin: Helps increase high-density lipoprotein and reduce risk of cardiac events
- Folate: Aids in cell growth and division
- Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus: Important for healthy bones
- Iron- Necessary for production of blood cells and transportation of oxygen
- Zinc: Promotes reproductive health and helps with metabolism
Other Health Benefits
Mulberries have also been getting the star treatment lately because they contain quite a bit of protein and fiber. You can get 20 percent of your daily fiber requirement and four grams of protein from a third of a cup of mulberries. This is a boon for vegans and vegetarians who often struggle to get enough protein from non-animal sources. Vegans and vegetarians can also source their protein and fiber from nuts like brazil nuts. Fiber slows the rate of digestion, which can help you feel fuller longer and reduce the rate sugar enters the bloodstream.
Sourcing and Using Mulberries
Although the berries come in several different colors, white mulberries are the most nutritious. It is best to eat the berries raw and within a few days after picking them off the tree. Unless you have a mulberry tree in your backyard, however, it may be difficult to obtain berries that fresh. Some supermarkets and organic food stores sell them in the produce aisle.
Be certain to pick berries that are firm and fragrant. Avoid any that are soft or splitting. If you can’t find fresh berries, frozen or dried ones are the next best thing. Even if you can find mulberries raw, it’s important to note that the berries do not keep for very long. They must be refrigerated at all times. A good way to preserve them if you’re not able to eat them right away is to dry the berries using a dehydrator. You can also freeze them or turn them into a jam or jelly to preserve freshness and nutrients.
Although they taste very sweet, the berries contain half the sugar found in other fruits. They are also low in calories. One cup of fresh mulberries contains sixty calories, while the amount of dried mulberry calories is about ninety-one for 1/4 cup depending on the brand you purchase. To maximize the mulberry nutrition you get, it’s a good idea to eat at least one serving of berries or drink a cup of mulberry tea every day. You can consume the berries in a number of ways including on top of salads or as part of a smoothie. You can even make a delicious mulberries cake for a sweet and healthy treat. Mulberries don’t require any special preparation to extract the vital nutrients. Simply wash them under cold water, pat dry, and enjoy.