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Cooking Your Food Like This Can Destroy These Cancer-Fighting Compounds

By on November 5, 2013
If you’ve heard the news lately, then you know that polyphenols are good are you–and your best source of them may be in a handful of berries.

“Berries–especially raspberries and strawberries–are rich in a polyphenol called ellagic acid,” says Gianna Rose, a certified wellness coach and contributor to LIVESTRONG. “In laboratory studies, ellagic acid prevented cancers of the bladder, lung, breast, esophagus and skin. Ellagic acid fought cancer by deactivating certain cancer-causing substances and slowing cancer cell reproduction.”

And while in years past people believed just adding their favorite berry concoction to any dish was enough to give them a well needed polyphenol boost, new research says how you use it could alter its polyphenol content.

“Blueberries are called a “superfood” for their high polyphenol content, but when served as warm, gooey pie filling or when lending bursts of sweet flavor to a muffin, their “super” health benefits change,” says the American Cancer Society in a written statement. “Some methods of processing, such as juicing and canning, lower polyphenol levels by 22 to 81 percent.”

The Study

Reporting in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, an extension of the American Chemical Society, researchers examined how adding blueberries to muffins, pies, and breads affected their polyphenol content. The team was led by Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, a junior research group leader at the Division of Cardiology, Pulmonology and Vascular Medicine at the University of Dusseldorf in Germany.

Keeping close tabs on the blueberries’ antioxidant content before, during, and after baking, Rodriguez-Mateos and her team of researchers examined these baking items closely–and found that baking reduced the levels of anthocyanin by up to 21 percent, while in other cases levels of antioxidants remained constant.

As for what kept antioxidant levels from dipping, her team noticed something peculiar–it had something to do with the product’s yeast content.

“They found that all three processes had mixed effects on blueberries’ polyphenols including anthocyanin, procyanidin, quercetin and phenolic acids,” says the American ChemicalSociety. “They say that the good retention of polyphenols observed in their study might be due to the use of yeast, which may act as a stabilizing agent during baking.”

While Rodriguez-Mateos won’t make any recommendations at this time, she does say a “better understanding of the impact of processing” may be useful for maximizing the retention of polyphenols in blueberries in the future.

What You Should Do

Polyphenols may be the way to a lower risk of cancer–so what should you do in this case? While Rodriguez-Mateos hasn’t made any recommendations, this study could be useful for making more healthful choices in the future. Here’s what to consider:

1. It’s best to eat blueberries raw. Modifying the natural state of any berries seems to damper its antioxidant content regardless of how you plan to use it–for instance, juicing lowers its polyphenol content by up to 81 percent.

2. If you want to add it to a baked item, make sure to add yeast too. In the study, yeast seemed to minimize the negative effects cooking had on the blueberries’ polyphenol content. Blueberry breads or muffins are best.

3. Avoid processed foods containing blueberries. These foods are likely to have very little polypehnol content–not a good thing if you need to up your consumption to reduce your cancer risk.

Readers: How do you get berries into your diet?

Sources:
Benefits of PolyphenolsLIVESTRONG.com
Baking Blueberries Changes Polyphenol ContentACS.org

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One Comment

  1. C.

    May 27, 2014 at 1:14 am

    I use berries with a heaping tablespoonful of Full fat, honey vanilla Greek yogurt. I refuse to go back to low fat garbage because of all the added sugars and polymers they put in the low fat foods. Sometimes I add nuts and a bit of whole grain cereal to make a breakfast berry parfait.
    I also use berries in my 3 or 4X a week nutra-Blast pulverized fruit & veggie drink.

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