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Why This Gut Expert Wants You To Eat More Berries

Blueberries and Blackberries
Image by Monica Murphy / Stocksy
February 16, 2020

If you're looking for another healthy snack to get you through a long day, there's good reason to consider adding berries—other than that they taste so good.

Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., is a gut health expert, and his career spent researching human microbiome and the mycobiome (a collection of fungi in our gut) means he knows a thing or two about what foods we should be eating. When he was on the mindbodygreen podcast, Ghannoum discussed a few of those good-for-you foods. One of his favorites? Berries, for their polyphenol content.

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Polyphenols are those mysterious compounds that make our wine and dark chocolate good for us. Research suggests that they play a role in1 metabolism, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and even cancer.

While treats like wine and chocolate can technically be sources of polyphenols, Ghannoum encourages us to go the slightly less indulgent route when looking for ways to tap into this group of antioxidants. "A lot of the polyphenols," he told mindbodygreen, "come from some berries."

Some berries are better sources of polyphenols than others—but luckily, some of the best sources are the common ones. One study cited blueberries2 as a great source of phenolic acids, which are a type of polyphenols. Other berries that are sources of polyphenols3 include currants, blackberries, elderberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

Ghannoum doesn't have any favorites, though: "I love different types of berries," he said. "They are a very, very mycobiome friendly diet." Other things he incorporates into his diet include herbs and seafood.

Another one of those berries that packs a polyphenol punch is grapes—hence your "healthy" glass of red wine. But when asked about wine's touted health benefits, Ghannoum said he "will not recommend it for you to have, as you say, medicinal purposes." He said three or so glasses per week is probably fine, but don't expect that to be your full source of polyphenols.

One of the best things about berries is how amazing they are on their own, but if you want to try adding them to meals as more than just a snack, we'd recommend blending them into a smoothie, or for berry chia pudding.

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