In the summer months, farmers markets and supermarket aisles are overflowing with fresh, colorful produce — especially berries. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are perfect summer fruits. They are packed with vitamins and fiber, low in calories, rich in antioxidants, and provide multiple health benefits. Most importantly, they are bursting with flavor!
Eat these summer gems to make meeting the recommended daily fruit intake an absolute breeze and reap the following benefits:
Feed Your Brain
Studies have shown that diets including berries may help to slow the cognitive decline associated with aging.
Berries provide fiber, which slows the release of carbohydrates into the blood stream, and in turn improves blood sugars. Eating berries may also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by improving insulin resistance in adults who are obese.
Boost Heart Health
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of a heart attack. Additionally, the antioxidants found in berries may protect artery walls from cell damage.
Control Your Weight
The fiber and liquid content of berries gives us a feeling of fullness, which can help manage caloric intake.
Ante-Up on Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body from free radicals, or molecules that can cause damage. Flavonoids are one type of antioxidant commonly found in plant-based foods and some studies indicate that berries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits. Here are some benefits to these compounds:
- Lowering blood pressure: The compound anthocyanidin found in berries may reduce blood vessel inflammation to fight high blood pressure.
- May prevent disease: Research published in the Journal of Neurology showed that men with high berry intake reduced the risk of Parkisons Disease by 40%.
- Fighting cancer: Some studies indicate that antioxidants, especially ellagic acid found in blackberries, may have an anticarcinogenic effect and prevent tumor growth.
- Reduce wrinkling of skin: The antioxidant quercetin may control free radicals that cause skin damage and skin cancers.
While berries are typically a summer staple, you can actually use them all year long in meals and recipes. Check out these eight tips on how to boost your berry intake:
- Include berries in your favorite salad for some sweetness and color contrast.
- Top off your hot or cold cereal with your favorite berry.
- Add berries to plain or vanilla yogurt for a burst of flavor (and less sugar than the flavored varieties).
- Try fresh or frozen berries in your favorite smoothie.
- Bake them into a quick bread.
- Use berries as a side for a sandwich instead of French fries or chips.
- Pack them as a great on the go snack
- Puree and make them part of a fruity vinaigrette (instead of extra oil).
For information about our Outpatient Nutrition Services or programs, or if you wish to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian, please call Winchester Hospital or Wilmington Family Medical Center.
Mariale Renna, MS, RD, LDN also contributed to this article.