Promoting health with tasty summer fruits
Berry season is almost upon us! Soon farmers markets and grocery stores will be exploding with vibrant displays of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and every other kind of berry that you can think of. Berries are awesome in so many ways that I couldn’t help putting together a post that sings their praises.
In addition to being delicious, berries have fabulous health benefits:
They’re Packed with Nutrients
According to The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, berries provide a beneficial combination of nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, several B vitamins and trace minerals such as manganese. Levels vary depending on the type of berry, so be sure to eat a variety to get as much as you can!
They’re High in Antioxidants
The abundance of free-radical-busting antioxidants in berries is what’s earned them their reputation as superfoods. Antioxidants are powerful protectors at a cellular level, and the more you have in reserve, the easier it is for your body to combat damage that can lead to heart disease, dementia and premature aging. The deeper and richer the color, the more antioxidants you get.
They’re Low in Sugar
Many conditions including diabetes, candida and Lyme disease require a low-sugar diet, which can mean missing out on a lot of fruits. Berries, however, are low enough in sugar to allow most people on restricted diets to enjoy a natural sweet treat. They’re also a good choice if you experience blood sugar imbalances unrelated to diabetes or are simply looking to reduce your overall sugar intake.
They Fill You with Fiber
Fiber is partially responsible for feelings of fullness and satisfaction, and berries are a great source of it. Eating more fiber helps you feel full longer, preventing cravings and aiding in weight maintenance. Fiber also slows the delivery of sugar to the bloodstream to help balance glucose levels, and of course it promotes regular, healthy digestion!
They Fight Inflammation
Quercetin, an antioxidant that’s particularly abundant in berries, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. By helping to block the production of histamine and other inflammatory markers, quercetin can stop inflammation before it starts. This makes it beneficial for everything from allergies to arthritis. It may also explain the apparent protective properties that berries have when it comes to heart health. Excessive inflammation is suspected to be a catalyst for heart disease as well as other degenerative conditions, and cooling it off can have far-reaching benefits.
If you’re curious about properties of specific berries, the Mother Nature Network has an informative article on how 11 different varieties work to promote health.
Making the Most of Bountiful Berries
So how do you get all the most benefit from berries? It depends on what you’re in the mood to eat! Berries make any meal or snack sweeter and more satisfying. Try these tasty ideas to enjoy more berries this season:
- Make a parfait with vegan yogurt, a crunchy nugget cereal such as Ezekiel 4:9 and your favorite berries.
- Top oatmeal with sliced fresh berries or stir blueberries and raspberries into overnight oats.
- Put blueberries on (or in!) pancakes.
- Liven up a spinach salad with some sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar.
- Whip up a batch of quick chia seed jam.
- Put a healthy twist on dessert with a raw berry pie or cheesecake.
- Cool down on a hot day with a satisfying berry-filled smoothie.
- Toss a bunch of berries in a bowl with some walnuts and cinnamon for an instant fruit salad.
And because I’ve been obsessed with it lately, I couldn’t share a list of berry recipes without a few for baked oatmeal!
- Blueberry, Banana and Walnut Oat Bake from Choosing Raw
- Cinnamon Blueberry Baked Oatmeal from Made to Create
- Strawberry Shortcake Baked Oatmeal from Chocolate Covered Katie
Selecting and Storing
As with any produce, freshness counts when choosing berries. If you can find a local farm that offers pick-your-own, take advantage of it to load up on your favorite berries when they’re at peak ripeness. At this point, they’ll have the highest nutrient content and, incidentally, the best flavor.
The next best thing to picking your own berries is to buy them at a farmers market or farm stand. They’ll still deliver a big boost of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and sometimes you can find buy-one-get-one deals or quantity discounts.
If you don’t have access to either of these options, look for organic berries at the grocery store. Check the origin and choose brands that come from as close by as possible.to minimize the nutrient loss that occurs during transportation. Berry prices should be more reasonable this time of year thanks to seasonality, so keep an eye on ads to find the best deals.
No matter where you shop, be discerning when choosing your berries. After all, to truly enjoy the seasonal bounty, you want the best possible berries you can get!
- Bright, bold, uniform colors
- Firm texture
- Bruised, broken or leaking fruits
- Rot or mold
- Shrunken or dry appearance
Finding a huge haul of perfect berries is exciting, but once you’ve got them home, you have to be able to keep them fresh. Berries should be washed (Better Homes and Gardens has a useful guide to this) and either stored in the refrigerator or laid out on cookie sheets and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to freezer-safe zipper bags or airtight containers. I did this with a bunch of blueberries that I bought last year and was still putting them in oatmeal in December!
To keep berries fresh longer in the refrigerator, I recommend using green bags. These BPA-free bags extend the life of produce by a significant amount to preserve freshness and reduce waste.
Incorporating berries into your daily diet is a delicious way to fight cellular damage, protect yourself from degenerative diseases and promote an overall feeling of wellness. How do you include berries in your meals? Share your favorite recipe in the comments!