The raspberry is an aggregate fruit, each one made of smaller seed-containing fruits called drupelets, arranged around a hollow center. The most common type of raspberry is red-pink in color but they can actually come in a range of colors including purple, black, orange, yellow, and white. Both loganberries and boysenberries are hybrids of raspberries.
Wild raspberries are native to eastern Asia and the Western Hemisphere and have been eaten since prehistoric times. They started to be cultivated primarily in Europe and North America in the nineteenth century when many new varieties were created through cross-breeding, both intentionally and accidentally. Today, the top commercial producers of raspberries are in Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Germany, Chile, and the United States.
Raspberries are an excellent source of manganese, the B vitamins (particularly vitamin B2), vitamin C, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and fiber. The great thing about raspberries is they’re loaded with nutrients but contain very little sugar, something increasingly important in our society today as the incidence of diabetes is on the rise. The relatively low sugar content, coupled with the fiber, make raspberries a great fruit choice for diabetics and those on a low-sugar diet. Furthermore, they make a great snack or dessert for those with a sweet tooth who are trying to improve their diet and increase their nutrition intake while still feeling like they’re getting a treat.
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants responsible for giving raspberries their red color and many of their health benefits. Raspberries are high in a compound related to flavonoids: ellagic acid, a particularly strong antioxidant that helps to protect the chromosomes against damage from harmful free radicals. Furthermore, it’s an excellent cancer-fighting compound, helping to block the cancer-causing activity of pollutants like those from cigarette smoke and toxic chemicals from the air, water, and other sources.
Ellagic acid is a promising natural supplement because it also causes apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. Normally, healthy cells have a life span of approximately 120 days, after which they go through the apoptosis process. Once the cell dies the body replaces it with a healthy cell and the cycle continues. But cancer cells, instead of dying and being excreted, continue to multiply and divide, causing tumors. Fortunately, ellagic acid causes the cancer cells to go through the normal apoptosis process. Ellagic acid also has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Raspberries are one of the highest sources of ellagic acid, being approximately five to six times higher than the levels found in other food sources. Some other good sources are other berries, fruit such as apples, and nuts such as walnuts and pecans. While ellagic acid is not destroyed by freezing or freeze-drying, it is destroyed by heat, so this fruit provides the most nutrition uncooked.
Anthocyanin compounds are also high in raspberries and have the ability to stop cyclooxygenase, a compound produced in the body found in two forms, called COX-1 and COX-2. COX-2 is only in special cells and is used for signaling pain and inflammation, leading to conditions such as arthritis. Medications such as Celebrex work by inhibiting this COX-2, but as with almost any medication, there are side effects. However, anthocyanins inhibit this COX-2 without any negative side effects. This makes raspberries a great food to naturally help treat arthritis.
The best season for raspberries is from mid-summer to early fall. The best raspberries will be a deep color and have a sweet smell. Stay away from raspberries that have a hull in the center, which indicates they were picked before they were ripe and makes them much tarter. Also avoid ones that are moldy, crushed, packaged too tightly, or have signs of stains or moisture. If any of your berries are squished, remove them as they will mold and spoil the rest of the berries more quickly.
Raspberries go bad very quickly relative to other fruits, so it's best to buy them in small quantities and use them within a day or two. Exposing the berries to sunlight, keeping them at room temperature too long, or washing them before storing will quicken the spoiling process; storing them dry in the fridge is best. Raspberries do freeze well and so if they aren't going to be eaten quickly, they may be frozen for up to about nine to twelve months and used in the future. Adding some lemon juice to the raspberries before freezing helps to maintain their red color.
Vitamix Homemade Raw Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp Celtic sea salt
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) raw honey