The wave of superfoods shows no sign of abating, with news this week suggesting that chokeberries – a fruit native to North America – could work in combination with conventional drugs to kill more cancer cells, particularly in cases of pancreatic cancer.
The truth in this is still tenuous, according to Cancer Research UK’s science information manager Henry Scowcroft.
“It’s far too early to say from this small laboratory study whether chemicals extracted from chokeberries have any effect on pancreatic cancer in patients, and the findings certainly don’t suggest that the berries themselves should be taken alongside conventional chemotherapy,” he said.
Nell Barrie, senior science communications manager at the same charity, adds that for all the halos placed on so-called superfoods, the best scientific evidence shows there’s no such thing as a superfood.
“Eating any one specific food isn’t going to help treat or prevent cancer,” she said.
“Research looking at different diets and lifestyles shows that a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to reduce your risk of cancer – with plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables, and not too much red or processed meat, saturated fat or salt.
“Scientists are also looking at chemicals found in certain foods to see if these could help fight cancer, but that means using carefully controlled doses, not eating kilos of berries.”
If you are going to stick to moderate portions though, you might want to try these healthy berries instead…
Strawberries might be slipping out of season, but get a bowl or few while you can, because that most English of berries is a rich source of phenols, which are thought to be cancer-busting antioxidants and mop up free radicals (which can lead to cancer) in the blood. One of the antioxidants, anthocyanidin, is also the reason why strawberries are so red.
The original, go-to superfood, blueberries are not only packed with vitamin C, are thought to slow down mental ageing, and help combat free radicals that lead to skin wrinkles - they’re also jammed with those crucial anti-cancer antioxidants.
Not sure if it’s strictly a berry, but it does have berry-sized seeds.
More importantly, a few years ago, scientists at the University of California found that pomegranate contains chemicals that can potentially reduce cell damage and kill off cancer cells in men with prostate cancer.
Other research from the US, at the City of Hope cancer centre in California, suggested that ellagitannins, an ingredient in pomegranates, might help to slow the growth of breast cancer tumours.
They’ve long been known to help fight bladder infections and cystitis, but research has suggested that cranberries can also help combat H.pylori, a bacteria associated with peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer.
Good in a crumble, good on their own, and very good for your health.
Blackberries can boast being one of the most high-fibre fruits, apparently containing eight grams of fibre in just one handful – that’s nearly a third of your recommended daily allowance.
Studies and experts consistently point out that eating plenty of fibre can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer.