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A Bowl of Berries

Posted On July 30, 2016

Life is better with a diet that includes berries for their immense antioxidants they provide

By ENDA COX RICE, RDN, CSG, LDN

They’re among the top Super Foods of summer, and now is the time these tasty treats are at their peak and ready for the picking. You can find locally grown Blueberries, Strawberries, and Blackberries from May through mid-August.  Berries are colorful, delicious, fun to eat, and abundantly good for you.

Berry Good for You

They may be little, but they are nutrition powerhouses, packed full of nutrients―vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more―that provide numerous health benefits.  All fruits and veggies contain antioxidants, but berries are some of the absolute best sources.

The most powerful antioxidants in berries include anthocyanins, quercetin, and Vitamin C.  Anthocyanins not only give berries their vibrant colors, they are effective in reducing inflammation. The latest research indicates that inflammation is the underlying cause of many of the major health concerns in the U.S. today, such as heart disease, cancers, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Want to slow memory loss associated with aging and maintain mental sharpness?  The anthocyanins and quercetin content in berries can help.  In addition to their high nutrient content of Vitamin C and anthocyanins, berries contain high levels of Vitamins A and E, selenium, and potassium. All of these nutrients work together in preventing and healing neurotic disorders.  They are used in the brain to prevent the degeneration and death of brain cells and in restoring the health of the central nervous system.  Give your brain a boost with berries.

Eating berries makes you happy―they’re colorful and just fun to eat.  They also are great sources of folate which contribute to the production of serotonin in the brain.  High levels of serotonin help to protect your brain and has been associated with the prevention of depression.  A diet rich in folate-containing berries can improve your overall sense of well-being and help you feel happier.  

Folate and Vitamin C play an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.  Vitamin C, anthocyanins, and quercetin help to fight systemic inflammation which frequently accompanies hypertension. The high fiber content in berries has a lowering effect on both blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.  The nutrients in berries work to strengthen the cardiac muscle, which is very good for your heart!

Reducing inflammation is beneficial in the prevention and management of arthritis.  Joint inflammation in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can cause much discomfort and joint pain.  Quercetin contributes to easing this pain and discomfort. Joint health and flexibility is maintained or improved when higher levels of Vitamin C are consumed.

Infection fighting anthocyanins are abundant in blueberries and cranberries.  Consuming both of these berries is associated with protecting against infections, particularly urinary tract infections.  These compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria and contain some antibiotic properties that add to this effect.

According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants and other phytonutrients protect against cancer.  The berries have it!  Berries are also loaded with Vitamin A, another super hero in the antioxidant world.  The combined antioxidant power of Vitamins A and C help to protect damage of cells throughout the body.  Promising new research links the consumption of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries with the prevention of certain types of cancer.  Ellagic acid is the phytonutrient in berries that is primarily responsible for this effect.  This compound is found in the seeds of berries.  Various studies have demonstrated that people who consume foods with high levels of Ellagic acid are three times less likely to develop cancer compared with those who consume very little or no Ellagic acid.

Good From the Outside In  

Berries are good for protecting you inside while helping you maintain that youthful appearance on the outside.  Eating these tasty treats is a secret ingredient to your skincare routine.  In addition to the antioxidant protection against skin cancer, they offer prevention of skin sagging and improve the overall appearance of your skin, helping you achieve that healthy, happy glow. 

Bite into a berry and you’ll discover they’re scrumptious and juicy.  The juiciness means they have a high water content which helps to increase volume while decreasing the calories.  Eat a cup of berries and you consume only 80 calories.  You also consume an excellent source of fiber.  One cup provides 8 grams of fiber, which is one third of the needed fiber to meet the recommended daily fiber intake of 25 grams per day.  Choosing berries is an excellent weight loss strategy because they fill you up quickly.  

Increased fiber not only aids in weight loss, research has proven it is beneficial in managing diabetes.  Since berries are low in calories, high in fiber, and taste delicious, they make a perfect dessert for a diabetic craving something sweet but wanting to limit their sugar intake.  Studies have shown that after 90 days of a blueberry-enriched diet, improvements were noted in fasting blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in adults with diabetes. 

Easy to Add to Your Diet

POP ‘Em » Snack on a handful of berries any time.  Keep a bowl in the fridge and pop one or two next time you’re peering in looking for a treat.

TOP ‘Em » For a protein boost, top your berries with fat-free Greek yogurt or fat-free cottage cheese.  Want dessert, top ‘em with fat-free whipped topping or a dark chocolate sauce.

TOSS ‘Em » Toss a handful of fresh or dried berries on hot or cold cereal; in a salad; or with a handful of nuts for a healthy, satisfying snack.

BAKE ‘Em » For a burst of flavor, fiber and nutrition add berries to baked goods.  Fold them into muffins, breads, cookies, or best of all a fruit crisp!

SMOOTH ‘Em » Blend them in smoothies, using fresh or frozen berries, low-fat or fat-free almond or soy milk and yogurt. 

FREEZE ‘Em » Take advantage of the availability of fresh, local berries during the summer months and freeze so you’ll have berries to add to dishes all year long.  Freeze them now for a refreshing summertime snack that’s easy, delicious and nutritious.

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