By Bob Condor

Can dessert improve your blood pressure?

The answer is yes if the dessert is a bowl of berries and if you consider a bowl of berries to be dessert. Here at DHB, we would add a dollop of plain vanilla to the bowl, maybe with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Eating a half-cup of mixed berries after lunch and dinner helped volunteers in a Finnish study reduce their blood pressure readings by more than 7 points (mm HG, to be technical) in just eight weeks. No other lifestyle changes were manipulated.

What’s more, the berry eaters in the study increased their HDL or “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by five percent. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Iris Erlund and colleagues at the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki used a variety of berries to maximize the “various polyphenols” found in berries and thought to help reduce blood pressure. The Finns used bilberries, lingonberries, black currants and strawberries. Feel free to substitute, raspberries, blueberries, blackberry and other local berries (loganberry, marionberry, huckleberry); just be sure that you are dishing up mixed berries.

Erlund also credited vitamin C in the berries as helping known down blood pressure readouts. So now it is documented that berries not only reduce blood pressure, but additionally lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, fight cancer cells and help prevent or stall Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are interested, the researchers did incorporate pure berry juice and nectar into the consumption for the experiemental group, but be sure to keep your juice consumption to four to six ounces and always eat fresh berries at least once a day after lunch or dinner.

Erlund said she plans upcoming studies to determine which combination of berries are most therapeutic and made it clear that what researchers are learning about the healing power of berries is just in the early stages.

Just one question from the DHB: Which way to the closest farmers market?

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”