Research & Education

Blackberries – Straight Up Delicious

With sugar in general, and fructose, in particular, taking a beating of late in health and nutrition circles, fruit is the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. While those with severe carbohydrate intolerance may do best reducing their fruit intake or possibly even eliminating fruit entirely, at least for a little while, most people can consume reasonable amounts of fruit without inducing metabolic derangement. Some fruits are higher in fructose and total sugar than others, of course. For those looking to keep sugar low, berries have always been a good choice. Even Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the eponymous low-carb Atkins diet, included berries in his plan.

For some reason, blueberries always seem to come up first, and sometimes exclusively, in discussions about the health benefits of berries. But blueberries aren’t unique in some of their phytochemicals and other potentially helpful compounds. Raspberries come with their own set of positives as well, and let’s not forget their deep purple-black relatives, blackberries.

A generous 100-gram serving of blackberries (about 3.5 ounces) contains a miniscule 43 calories. This size serving provides about 10 grams of total carbohydrate, but over half of that is fiber, for a net carb count of about 5 grams. This amount of digestible carbohydrate is split almost equally between glucose and fructose. Blackberries contain slightly more fructose than glucose, but with just 2.4 grams of fructose, it’s almost negligible. A handful of juicy, refreshing blackberries is a world apart from free refills of a corn syrup-sweetened soda, so there’s no need for fructose fearmongering (a.k.a. “fructophobia”) where blackberries are concerned.

Blackberries are high in vitamin C, which is good news for those who don’t like oranges or orange juice, or who prefer to get their vitamin C with a bit less sugar along for the ride. These boldly colored berries are also a good source of vitamin K and manganese. Not that anyone eats blackberries specifically for their nutrient content. We eat them because they’re straight-up delicious.

But what else do blackberries have going for them besides killer flavor and an uncanny ability to stain a white shirt in summer? They’re full of some of the same anthocyanins found in red grapes (and wine), and their berry brethren, blueberries and raspberries. They also contain ellagic acid, a polyphenol also found in strawberries, and which exhibits antioxidant, anti-diabetic, anticancer and apoptosis-inducing activities.

Mexico is the leading producer of blackberries worldwide, and nearly the entire crop is exported for sale in Europe and North America during the off-seasons there. In the US, Oregon leads the nation in blackberry production, having produced 56.1 million pounds in 2009. Oregon is also home to marionberries, a blackberry hybrid developed jointly between the USDA and Oregon State University. If you’re wondering what the difference is between blackberries and raspberries (other than flavor, size, and color of the most common varieties), there’s a difference in whether or not the stem stays attached to the berries when the berries are picked. When blackberries are picked, the stem remains with the fruit; raspberries separate from the stem and the stem remains attached to the plant, leaving a hollow core at the top of the raspberry.

Fortunately, following a grain-free, low-carb or ketogenic diet doesn’t mean going without these delicious berries. Thanks to creative food bloggers and recipe creators, there’s no shortage of recipes for blackberry treats, minus the wheat flour and refined sugars. These blackberry “fat bombs” are packed with coconut oil and coconut butter, perfect for ketogenic diets, or when you need a sweet but fat-based pick-me-up. If you’re looking to mimic some old favorites, try these grain-free Paleo-friendly blackberry muffins, sweetened with just 2 tablespoons of honey to shore up the natural sweetness of the berries. And who could forget cheesecake? Berries and cheesecake are a match made in heaven, even if you need to stay low-sugar. Grain-free and low-carb blackberry cheesecakes will hit the spot, and if you prefer a thick smoothie as an indulgent treat, you can’t beat a blackberry cheesecake smoothie.

If you want to change up your berry game from blueberries and raspberries, reach for blackberries at the store next time.