As something of a berry evangelist, I can’t stress enough how important berries are to helping the body maintain health and vitality. There really isn’t a downside to eating berries in moderation, because they are among nature’s most perfect foods. They’re rich in soluble fiber, vitamin C and disease-fighting phytochemicals like anthocyanins and ellagic acid — the phytochemicals that can prevent and even reverse serious diseases and help lower cholesterol levels. Many berries also contain potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, and berries also deliver the health benefits of fruit, without the dreaded high-carb or high-glycemic load.
Eat ‘Em, Don’t Drink ‘Em
Berries are best eaten in their raw, whole fruit form. To get the maximum phytonutrients from berries, you must get them in the freshest form possible — that means no processed berries, just raw berries, right off the bush or straight from the grocery store. Skip processed or canned berries as well as fruit drinks made from berries, which tend to be surprisingly high in sugar. Though raw is best, if you must buy frozen berries, be sure to buy only unsweetened berries, without syrup or additives, and preferably certified organic.
Your Berry Smart Prescription
Generous servings of berries, rich in beneficial phytochemicals and anti-oxidants can be an extremely powerful way to make disease-fighting part of your daily diet. Choose a variety of berries — blue, red, and purple — and be sure to get them into your diet at least a couple of times each week.
Know Your Berries
Berries come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. While they share common health benefits, each berry possesses unique qualities — so be sure to eat a mix of berries to spread the nutritional wealth. Add these berries onto your shopping list and enjoy often:
- Blueberries have the highest level of antioxidants compared to other berries.
- Strawberries offer the highest levels of vitamin C. Eight medium-sized strawberries provide 160 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It also contains high levels of ellagic acid, which has been shown to keep cancer cells from dividing in a test tube. Strawberries are the most plentiful berry and are available year-round. It is always best to buy local strawberries when they’re in season; they’ll definitely be tastier than berries that have been transported from faraway places.
- Raspberries are fiber-packed, nutritional powerhouses, despite their apparent delicacy. Some of the fiber is soluble fiber in the form of pectin that lowers cholesterol. Their phytochemical content includes ellagic acid, catechins, and monoterpenes. They are a good source of vitamin C, too. Raspberries should be eaten within a day or two of purchase as they can turn soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours.
- Cranberries really do help prevent urinary tract infections. Certain phytochemicals in cranberries appear to prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. This anti-adhesive property also may prevent the development of certain types of ulcers and periodontal disease. Cranberries are too tart to eat raw or in any unsweetened form, but they can be combined with sweeter fruits, such as apples or pears, so that very little additional sugar is needed. Avoid dried cranberries as they are often loaded with sugar.