Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fiber-rich, nutrient-dense, and full of antioxidants, berries are a sweet summer treat bursting with health benefits.

All berries are loaded with nutrients and fiber, relatively low in calories, and easy to travel with as a healthy snack on the go. Additionally, they provide many beneficial antioxidants that protect our cells from damage.  There are several popular types of berries, including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, each of which boast their own unique nutritional advantages.

For instance, blueberries are one of the richest food sources of antioxidant phytonutrients, called anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and disease-related complications, help prevent certain cancers, and keep memory sharp as you age.

Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, an important nutrient for healthy skin and hair that may also help reduce the risk of arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.  Eating just five to six large strawberries provides 98% of our daily vitamin C requirements.

Compared to other berries, blackberries contain the most grams of fiber per serving. Increasing fiber intake can help with digestive health and improve insulin sensitivity for individuals with diabetes. A high fiber diet has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and is beneficial for weight management.

Raspberries contain special antioxidants such as quercetin and egallic acid that fight against cancer, heart and circulatory disease and age-related decline.

During this month make it a point to add more berries in your diet. Although fresh berries can be particularly expensive, prices tend to be most affordable when they are in season. Frozen berries are another nutritious option that may be available at a lesser price.

Explore creative ways to use berries when cooking. By using them as a topping for oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, or low fat yogurt, berries can be easily incorporated into a healthy breakfast. They can even be tossed onto a salad as a colorful and flavorful topping. For snacking on the go, most berries can be washed ahead of time and placed in single-serving baggies to be eaten in the car with some mixed nuts. For a fresh dessert idea, try a mixed berry salad. Berries can be incorporated into warm meals, too. For example, stirring some berries into a light couscous or quinoa lunch meal. Or for a heartier dinner option, try making your own berry sauce to top your favorite extra lean meat, chicken, or fish.

Berries can even be a part of summertime family fun! Try planting some of your favorites and enjoy eating them off the vine or visit one of Oklahoma’s local U-pick farms to harvest your own.

 

Destiny Howard, MS, RDN, LD, CNSC Norman Regional Health System