From crimson colored cranberries, to ruby red strawberries, to midnight blue blueberries these tiny fruit are rich in powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. They’re candy for your taste buds, and inside every juicy berry are beneficial plant-based compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol and anthocyanins. (Anthocyanins give berries their brilliant red and blue hues).
These compounds act as antioxidants and studies show by adding berries daily to your diet they can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, keep your eyes healthy, and work to keep your brain and memory in optimal shape. These tasty little treats can also help reduce inflammation because of the salicylic acid they contain, which is the same anti-inflammatory substance found in aspirin. Berries are also abundant in vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Here are some of the more common berries and the health benefits they provide:
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 help prevent and alleviate urinary tract infections. Researchers have discovered that blueberries contain some of the same infection-fighting compounds as cranberries.
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 tissue 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 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.
Cranberries are high in antioxidants and are a rich source of dietary fibre. The best-known benefit of cranberries is the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections. Their juice contains an antibacterial agent and other compounds that prevent certain bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. They are also thought to be beneficial against the formation of kidney stones.
Choosing Your Berries
Choose berries that are plump and free of bruises or mold. When selecting blueberries, the skin should be smooth and not shriveled, and the hazy white coating you see on them is a natural protective coating, so don’t try to wash it off. 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.
Buy organic berries when you can. Strawberries have been named by the Environmental Working Group as one of the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables most likely to contain pesticide residues. If you can’t get organic, make sure you wash them well. Berries are best stored in the fridge.
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.
Berry Good For You
Although berries are usual sweet enough to eat on their own, here are a few additional ways to enjoy them:
- Add berries to muffin batters
- Blueberries go well in breads made in bread machines
- Top your pancakes, waffles, and cereal with berries
- Spoon a generous amount of fresh berries over a small serving of ice cream or frozen yogurt
- Toss them into a salad – strawberries go nicely in a spinach salad
- Stir fresh or frozen berries into plain yogurt for a satisfying snack
- Top a bowl of berries with a little light-whipped topping and a sprinkle of nuts
- Drizzle a tablespoon of chocolate syrup over fresh strawberries for a decadent healthy dessert
- Combine berries, bananas, and almond milk for a delicious smoothie
Scientific research is showing 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 the other fresh fruits and vegetables the summer season has to offer, make sure to include nutritious berries. They’re berry good for you!
*Mixed Berries image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net