Mulberries are the fruits of mulberry trees (Morus), related to figs and breadfruit.
Mulberry trees are traditionally grown for their leaves, mainly in Asia and North America, as they are the only food that silkworms can eat ().
Because of their sweet flavor, impressive nutritional value and numerous health benefits, mulberries are gaining increased interest worldwide ().
Chinese herbal medicine has used mulberry trees for thousands of years to treat diseases like heart disease, diabetes, anemia and arthritis (, , , ).
Mulberries are most commonly made into wine, fruit juice, tea, jam or canned foods, but can also be dried and consumed as a snack.
There are 24 species of mulberry trees, many of which have numerous different varieties. The most commonly grown species are black, white, and red.
There may be considerable variation in the color and antioxidant properties of the different species (, ).
The leaves, bark and other parts of the mulberry tree have also been used in Chinese herbal medicine.
Fresh mulberries contain 88% water and only 60 calories per cup (140 grams).
By fresh weight, they contain 9.8% carbs, 1.7% fiber, 1.4% protein and 0.4% fat.
Mulberries are often consumed dried, similar to raisins.
When dried, they contain 70% carbs, 14% fiber, 12% protein and 3% fat, which makes them fairly high in protein, at least compared to most berries.
The table below contains information on all the nutrients in mulberries ():
Fresh mulberries consist of 9.8% carbohydrates, or 14 grams per cup.
The carbohydrates are mostly simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, but they also contain some starch and fiber.
Mulberries are a decent fiber source, corresponding to 1.7% of their fresh weight.
The fibers are both soluble (25%) in the form of pectin, and insoluble (75%) in the form of lignin (, ).
Fibers help us to maintain a healthy digestive system, decrease cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of many diseases (, , , ).
Bottom line: Fresh mulberries contain about 10% carbs, in the form of soluble and insoluble fibers, starch and simple sugars.
Vitamins and Minerals
Mulberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and iron, and are a good source of many other vitamins and minerals. The most abundant ones are listed below.
- Vitamin C: An essential vitamin that is important for skin health and various functions in the body ().
- Iron: An important mineral that has various functions, such as transporting oxygen throughout the body.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health (, ).
- Potassium: An essential mineral that may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease (, ).
- Vitamin E: An antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage ().
Bottom line: Mulberries contain high amounts of both iron and vitamin C, and decent amounts of vitamin K, potassium and vitamin E.
Other Plant Compounds
Mulberries are rich in plant compounds, such as anthocyanins, that contribute to their color and beneficial health effects (, , , , ).
The most abundant ones are listed below.
- Anthocyanins: A family of antioxidants, which may inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol and have beneficial effects against heart disease (, , ).
- Cyanidin: The main anthocyanin in mulberries, responsible for their color (black, red, purple) ().
- Chlorogenic acid: An antioxidant, abundant in many fruits and vegetables.
- Rutin: A powerful antioxidant that may help protect against chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease (, ).
- Myricetin: A compound that may have a protective effect against some cancers ().
Mulberries, even from the same species, may contain different amounts of plant compounds, have different colors and different antioxidant properties ().
Deep colored and mature mulberries are richer in plant compounds, and have a higher antioxidant capacity, than colorless and immature berries (, , , ).
Bottom line: Mulberries contain several plant compounds, such as anthocyanins, cyanidins, chlorogenic acid, rutin and myricetin. Deep colored and mature berries contain higher amounts than colorless berries.
Health Benefits of Mulberries
Mulberries or mulberry extracts may be beneficial against several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer ().
Cholesterol is an important fatty molecule that is present in every cell in the body. However, elevated cholesterol in the blood is also linked to increased risk of heart disease.
Animal studies show that mulberries and mulberry extracts can reduce excess fat and lower cholesterol levels. They may also improve the ratio between LDL („bad“) and HDL („good“) cholesterol (, ).
Some test-tube experiments also show that they reduce the formation of fat in the liver, potentially helping to prevent fatty liver disease (, , , ).
Improve Blood Sugar Control
Diabetics are sensitive to rapid changes in blood sugar, and need to be careful when they eat carbs.
Mulberries contain a compound called DNJ (1-deoxynojirimycin), which inhibits an enzyme in the gut that breaks down carbohydrates.
DNJ is therefore considered to be beneficial against diabetes, by slowing down the increase in blood sugar after meals (, , ).
Reduce Cancer Risk
Increased stress in the body has been shown to induce oxidative damage in cells and tissues, and is associated with increased risk of cancer (, ).
For hundreds of years, mulberries have been part of traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy against cancer.
Some researchers now believe that these reputed cancer-preventive effects may actually have a scientific basis ().
Animal studies indicate that antioxidants in mulberry juice can decrease oxidative stress, potentially reducing the risk of cancer (, ).
Bottom line: Mulberries may lower cholesterol levels, help prevent fatty liver disease and improve blood sugar control. They also decrease oxidative stress, which may lead to reduced risk of several cancers.
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Allergy to mulberries is rare, but pollen from mulberry trees has been reported to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Individuals who are sensitive to birch pollen may also react to mulberries, as a result of cross-reactivity ().
Bottom line: Mulberry allergy is rare, but individuals sensitive to birch pollen may experience allergic reactions to mulberries.
Mulberries are colorful berries that are consumed both fresh and dried.
They are a good source of iron, vitamin C and several plant compounds, and have been linked with lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, and reduced risk of cancer.
These berries have also been used in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years to treat various illnesses.
Mulberries have a sweet and delicious taste, are packed with nutrients, and have a range of potential health benefits. These are all characteristics of a food that would fit well into a healthy diet.