IT’S ALL ABOUT BERRIES …
Though small in size, berries have BIG health and nutrition benefits. Besides bursting with flavor, the nutrition in these delectable treats comes from phytonutrients – naturally occurring compounds found in plants. These nutrients are most concentrated in the peel or skin of fruits and vegetables, so berries, with their edible skin, are a particularly good source of phytonutrients. These antioxidant properties can help improve immune function and reduce the risk for chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. July is National Blueberry month, so it’s time to start celebrating!
What is the Nutrition in Berries?
Strawberries contain more vitamin C in a one cup serving than one orange – 149% of the daily value. Eating just 8 of these nutritional superstars can lower blood pressure and help fight heart disease. Weighing in at 49 calories per cup with 3 grams of fiber, they make an excellent snack. They are also high in folate and potassium.
Blueberries contain 20 types of anthocyanins– the antioxidants that give berries their blue-violet and red colors. They have the highest ORAC score of all the berries. ORAC is a scientific measurement of antioxidant content. Blueberries may improve motor skills, night vision, and can reverse the short-term memory loss that comes with aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease In recent years, it’s been discovered that the blueberry is one nutrition powerhouse, and is now considered one of the top superfoods on the planet!
Blackberries, Raspberries, and Boysenberries each contain 8 grams of fiber in one cup, one-third of the daily recommended amount (25 g). Blackberries were recently identified as one of the top cancer fighters due to their high antioxidant content per serving. They have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the brain, and help prevent dementia.
Raspberries are low in calories, a rich source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and magnesium. Reseach indicates they play a role in heart health, and in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The boysenberry fruit is a cross between a raspberry, a blackberry, and a loganberry. Boysenberries are high in nutrition, a good source of niacin (vitamin B3) which can help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, and help the body to process fats.
TIP: Berries are great in dinner salads. Try adding them with mango, avocado, and sliced red onions to any mixed greens. Throw in some feta cheese and chopped nuts for a salad that will stay on your menu.
Cranberries not only combat urinary tract infections, but are also a natural probiotic, supporting healthy bacteria that grow in the gastrointestinal tract, and aid in digestion. A cousin to the blueberry, cranberries pack a lot of nutrition, fiber, and flavor into a package without many carbohydrates. This is good news for low carbers. A half a cup of whole cranberries has 4 grams of effective carbohydrates, plus 2 grams of fiber. They aslo freeze well — just throw the whole bag in the freezer.
TIP: The sweet/tart combination of cranberries goes well with spicy flavors. Try including horseradish, jalapenos, or other “hot” spices in your cranberry sauce or chutney. Make a 10 minute sauce and serve over cottage cheese. Add sugar-free dried cranberries to trail mix, muffins and breads.
Tips on how to buy and store berries:
When possible, purchase berries from local farmers markets during the growing season. Since fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutrients soon after they are picked, local produce provides the most nutrition because of the reduced time between harvest and consumption. Grab your kids or a group of friends and go berry picking. The freshly picked berries have unbeatable flavor on top of their excellent health and nutrition benefits. Always choose berries that are firm and deeply colored.Berries are highly perishable, so look closely to avoid soft or moldy fruits. Always refrigerate berries after buying, but don’t wash them until right before serving. Fresh berries may keep up to a week, but they will be better if consumed within a few days. Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain, and spread berries on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer until frozen, then store in a Ziploc bag. Frozen berries can last up to a year. They are great for smoothies!
Try these tasty new ways to use berries:
- Puree 2 cups strawberries, mix with lemonade and freeze into popsicles.
- Make a quick chutney of 2 cups diced berries, 1/4 cup brown sugar, the juice of one large lemon, white raisins, a little orange zest, and honey to taste. Serve with a firm white fish for dinner.
- Make a Fresco – Clean, hull, and chill 2 cups strawberries, and 2 cups chilled cubed watermelon, 1/3 cup lime juice, and sugar to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with a lime slice and a sliced strawberry on the glass for a beautiful presentation.
- Take advantage of the low prices when berries are in season. Use in cobblers, crepes, pancakes and waffles. Try a buckle, a crumble, a brown betty, or delicious quick breads.
Click and print this recipe for an elegant and simple dessert: Elegant Tri-Berry Dessert.
Don’t forget the Strawberry Shortcake, but hurry – Berry season doesn’t last long!