The berry season is now upon us. However berries are now sold all year round in grocery stores. The best berries are seasonal and sold at farmers markets. These berries are grown locally.
The strawberries are small, brightly colored, sweet, and juicy. Other berries available are blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Berries are labeled one of the “Super Foods”, and have been credited with a long list of health benefits. Berries are an excellent source of phytochemicals (Non-Nutritive compounds that are beneficial to health) contributing to prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. When food is eaten to be healthy, the diet must be rich in phytochemicals. Berries are a great to obtain them.
The high natural sugar content in berries may cause concerns. However it does not need to be because the sugar in berries is contained with the intact structure of the berries, greatly slowing the speed of digestion and therefore reducing erratic blood sugar compared to processed foods.
There is another compound in berries that is beneficial to health. This compound is the fiber that also slows down digestion and offsets potential harmful effects of the small amount of natural sugar.
Fresh berries may be considered the ultimate choice, but really there is no berry season anymore as fresh berries are available all year round. In any season frozen berries are a convenient choice and dried berries are another option with a long self life. The problem with dried berries is that it ends up being eaten more than intended unless mindful techniques are practiced for portion control. One serving of dried berries is equal to 1/3 cup and contains 140 calories. The dried fruits to choose are the ones that do not have sweeteners added to them during the drying process.
Berries are most flavorful and nutritious at their peak of ripeness. The best berries to look for are richly colored, firm, plump, and dry without mold, bruises, dents, or blemishes.
Berries need to be properly stored due to being delicate. They are best refrigerated in a container that allows airflow.
In a nutshell, berries are not a cure all however they need to be part of an overall healthy dietary pattern.
The following are some tips to get the most flavor and nutrition from berries now and all year long.
- Eat a variety: Include a range of berries and other fruits and vegetables to get a variety of nutrition.
- Go Deep: Rich color of berries indicates higher levels of health promoting compounds. Ripe and deep hued berries are an excellent choice.
- Keep them Cool: Berries are delicate and need to be refrigerated or frozen to extend their usable life.
- Wash Well: Rinse or swish delicate berries to remove soil, microbes, and pesticides. Firmer berries can be rubbed gently.
- Go Beyond Fresh: Fresh, frozen, and dried berries are all nutritious and delicious.
- Explore: In addition to blueberries and strawberries, give new and different varieties a try.
- Enjoy the Season: Although berries are generally available and can be enjoyed year round, you will still find the best taste (and often lower price) when in season in your area.