Berry Delicious

Fresh berry season is here and what better way to get healthful nutrients in our diet than to eat delicious fresh berries.

Not only do these tiny little fruit taste great, berries pack an enormous portion of nutrients, and including them in your diet will help to keep you healthy. As a matter of fact, you may be surprised to find out just how beneficial these small powerhouses are for your health.  

Berries are a rich source of phytonutrients – naturally occurring compounds found in plants.  There are literally hundreds of known phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant properties that help protect our cells against free radical damage, improve immune function, and help reduce the risk for chronic disease.  Berries are also abundant in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. 

Here are a few of the more common berries and the health benefits they have to offer:

  • Blueberries contain more disease fighting antioxidants than any other fresh fruit and score high in their ability to fight free radicals.  The nutrients in blueberries heal damaged cells, help to keep brain cells alive, improve memory, promote cardiovascular health and have also been found to reduce belly fat.  Blueberries are high in vitamin C and soluble fibre, and can prevent and alleviate urinary tract infections. 
  • Blackberries are abundant in antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals that accelerate aging and age-related diseases.  They are packed with      polyphenols and anthocyanins, which can help protect the body from cancer and heart disease.
  • Red Raspberries are an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, and dietary fibre.  Fiber helps slow the digestive process helping you feel full longer. Manganese is a trace mineral that helps raise your metabolic rate, and vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect the body’s tissues from oxygen-related damage.  Raspberries also have antimicrobial properties, and are thought to be helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome.  The properties in the seed and oil of this fruit are thought to act as a natural sunscreen. 
  • Strawberries are an especially good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre and the antioxidants in strawberries can help neutralize the destructive effect of free radicals while helping to repair tissue.   The combination of phytonutrients found in strawberries provides anti-inflammatory benefits and may help for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and asthma.
  • Black and Red Currants are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre.  They are abundant in antioxidants to help build and protect the immune system, and also have anti-inflammatory properties.  Red currents are thought to help maintain electrolyte balance.

For the freshest berries, your local farmers’ market will have a nice variety and most of them offer berries that have been harvested the same day.  You can also find berry farms that allow you to pick your own.  Visit PickYourOwn.org to find a pick-your-own farm near you.  When choosing berries look for ripe, firm and colorful berries with no sign of mushy spots or mold and make sure you wash them well before eating.

Although berries are usual sweet enough to eat on their own, here are a few additional ways to enjoy them:

  • Add berries to a bowl of whole-grain cereal.
  • Toss them in to a salad.  Strawberries go nice in a spinach salad.
  • Stir your favorite berry into plain yogurt.
  • Top a bowl of berries with a little light-whipped topping and a sprinkle of      nuts.
  • Combine berries, bananas, and soymilk, almond milk, rice milk or low-fat cow’s milk to make a delicious smoothie.

Scientific research is determining that berries can help prevent cancer and heart disease, slow the aging process, control blood glucose, improve vision and sharpen brain function, and on-going research is discovering more and more health benefits berries have to offer. 

Along with all of the other fresh fruits and vegetables the summer season has to offer, make sure to include nutritious berries.  They’re berry delicious!  

Author: Joanne Jackson, CHN

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