Red, blue, purple, frozen, fresh, dried…a berry puts a smile on your face. Berries are a sweet, tasty treat; they are beautiful to look at; and they’re good for you.
These little treats pack a nutritional punch. They are naturally low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Berries are a great source of dietary fiber which helps relieve constipation, lowers the risk of some diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and helps to control weight. Many berries, like strawberries, are loaded with Vitamin C which is necessary for strong immune system function, required for normal growth, and needed for maintenance of most of the tissue in your body. Some berries have potassium which is necessary for normal growth and regulation of the pH and fluid balance in your body, manganese to convert proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into energy, calcium for strong bones and teeth, and folate which is needed for producing new cells and for making DNA and RNA (the blueprints for your cells).
More than just pretty colors
The pigments that give a berry its beautiful blue and red hues are also good for your health. Berries have phytochemicals and flavonoids that may help to prevent some types of cancer. Eating a diet rich in strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries may help to reduce your risk of several types of cancers. The USDAs new MyPlate, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ a simple reminder for healthy eating, recommends Americans fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables. It is also recommended that we “eat a rainbow” of fruits and vegetables every day. Berries offer deep reds, blues, and purples as a delicious part of that healthy plate and rainbow.
If you are gathering berries from a pick-your-own berry farm, it is usually best to go first thing in the morning – you and the berries will both be cooler. Quality and price are often better at these farms than at the grocery store. To see available farms in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, check out Naturally EscaRosa. http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/naturally_escarosa/naturally_escarosa_destinations.htm If you grow your own strawberries, let them fully ripen before picking. Strawberries do not ripen after they have been picked. Grocery stores carry a wide variety of fresh, dried, and frozen berries. Look in the produce section for ripe, firm, brightly colored berries with no mold or mushy spots or juice stains (which could be a sign the berries have been crushed). In the frozen food section of the grocery store, look for berries without added sugar or syrup. Frozen berries are not as firm as freshly picked berries (after they thaw) but they are still delightful and nutritious. Dried berries are often sold in the snack aisle of the grocery store. They can be eaten alone as a snack or used in recipes that call for raisins.
Ideas for serving berries
Berries are easy to eat and they do not require much preparation. Most berries are naturally sweet so you do not need to add much in the way of sugar or toppings. Just rinse them under water right before you are ready to eat them and serve for a nutritious snack. Here are some other ideas:
- Add strawberry slices to a bowl of whole grain cereal
- Sprinkle blueberries on a salad
- Stir raspberries into yogurt
- Blend frozen berries and a banana with low-fat milk to make a smoothie
- Add dried berries to warm oatmeal
- Top a bowl of berries with a little light-whipped topping and a sprinkle of chopped pecans or walnuts.
Enjoy the benefits of berries!
Give this easy strawberry spinach salad a try for a light tasty summer meal or side dish.
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1 (10-12oz) bag baby spinach
1 (16oz) container strawberries, quartered
1 (4oz) package crumbled goat cheese
½ cup pecan pieces
Bottled raspberry vinaigrette
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Toss together red onion and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with raspberry vinaigrette; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.