Berries

Berries

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Benefits of Berries

  • Berries are arguably the most nutrient dense fruit. They are low in calories but packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C.
  • Berries are high in fiber which means they are excellent prebiotics which provide nutrients for healthy gut bacteria. This makes berries a favorite snack for those on low carb diets.Due to their high fiber content, berries also promote weight stabilization and weight loss. They help us feel full and satisfied, while helping to regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation.
  • Berries promote brain health, particularly blueberries (“brain berry”). They may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and may reduce age related memory loss. Antioxidants cross the blood brain barrier, so berries may also improve concentration and focus.
  • Berries are hydrating foods. They contain almost 85% water.
  • Berries help your immune system and your body’s natural ability to heal. They have anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties because they are rich in Vitamin C and manganese. They boost production of natural killer cells.  Berries promote wound healing and healthy skin/hair/nails. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen that keeps skin healthy and glowing.
  • Berries may be anti-aging!
  • Berries provide support and prevention services to many systems in our bodies. They are cardioprotective. They raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower blood pressure. Berries stabilize blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity (insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that affects blood sugar levels). When your body is more insulin sensitive, it will keep the blood sugar level normal and reduce your chances of getting diabetes. Berries also contain folate which is good for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects.
  • Berries may reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s disease.

There are over 400 types of berries and each have unique qualities:

  • Strawberries are  a treasure trove of Vitamin C. They have the highest amount of Vitamin C of any berry.
  • Raspberries have a unique antioxidant, ellagic acid, which may be anti-cancer. It has the highest fiber content of any berry.
  • Acai berries have the highest levels of antioxidants (10x more than blueberries).
  • Cranberries may reduce the risk of urinary tract infection. Cranberries produce a certain chemical that prevents the most common bacteria (E. coli) from sticking onto the bladder or urinary tract wall.
  • Goji berries are unique for their high Vitamin A and Zeaxanthin content, both of which are good for eyesight. Goji berries are also a good vegan source of iron.

Berries are an Antioxidant Powerhouse!

One cup of wild berries has over 13,000 antioxidants. That’s ten times more than other fruits and vegetables. Only herbs and spices can exceed berries in antioxidant prowess.

What are antioxidants?

  • Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are naturally made when our body undergoes billions of reactions or experiences stress. When these free radicals get out of control, they contribute to heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
  • Antioxidants can be made from within the body or can be consumed.  When we eat a varied diet that is rich in antioxidants, it optimizes our body’s ability to repair and heal. However, if we become sick, experience trauma, have a poor diet of processed foods, and/or live an unhealthy lifestyle, free radicals will accumulate and overwhelm the antioxidants and cause damage to our cells.
  • Antioxidants come in many flavors. Some well known examples include polyphenols, anthocyanin, flavonoids,  vitamin C, vitamin E, Vitamin A, lutein, Zeoxanthin, selenium, manganese and beta carotene. Foods with vibrant colors tend to have the highest levels of antioxidants. Look for the purple-blue-red-orange color spectrum to find foods with the most antioxidants.

Comparison of the four most commonly consumed berries (per one cup)

Minerals

*Essential

– Supports bone health
– Antioxidant
– Reduces inflammation
– Regulates blood sugar
– Decrease seizure activity
– Supports brain health
– Supports thyroid health
– Assists in wound healing

*Essential

– Antioxidant
– Heart healthy
– Anticancer
– Decreases inflammation 
– Decreases mental decline
– Supports thyroid health
– Boosts immune system

*Essential

– Supports bone and teeth health
– Necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation
– Supports heart health
– Co-factor (has to be present) for many cellular reactions to take place
– Supports healthy blood pressure
– Supports normal blood clotting

*Essential

– Prevents anemia (deficiency of red blood cells)
– Improves muscle endurance
– Boosts energy
– Boosts immune system
– Improves sleep 
– Reduces bruising
– Supports normal blood clotting

*Essential

– Boosts immune system
– Speeds up wound healing
– Reduces acne
– Decreases age-related illnesses
– Decreases inflammation
– Part of many enzymes for building protein and genetic material (DNA)
– Critical for normal taste
– Supports fetal development
– Assists in sperm production
– Necessary for normal growth and sexual maturation

– Helps with water balance in the body
– Necessary for normal muscle contraction and relaxation
– Supports brain and nervous system health
– Regulates blood pressure
– Promotes skin health

– Supports bone and muscle health
– Improves energy
– Aids in tissue and cell repair (found in every cell)
– Necessary for proper nerve conduction
– Normalizes heart beat
– Helps body maintain a healthy pH (acid/base balance), allowing cells to perform optimally

*Essential

– Regulates the body’s fluid balance
– Supports nervous system health
– Regulates heart and muscle contractions
– Lowers blood pressure
– Protects against strokes
– Prevents kidney stone
– Protects against osteoporosis

Vitamins

*especially in strawberries

Boosts immune system
– Antioxidant (prevent chronic disease)
– Anti Inflammatory (reduces inflammation)
– May decrease blood pressure (relaxes artery walls)
– Helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides
– May reduce anemia (helps absorption of iron)
– May slow down dementia and protect memory
– Assists in wound repair
– Supports hair, nail, and skin health (Vit C is necessary for the production of collagen).

*Especially Acai berries

– Supports vision/eye health
– Boosts immune system
– Protects and revitalizes skin
– Improves fertility
– Critical for fetal development
– Anti-oxidant, cancer fighting

*Especially bilberries

– Anti-oxidant (helps repair damaged cells)
– Anti-cancer

– Promotes healthy blood clotting (K1). Helps you heal faster  when you bleed or bruise
– Contributes to bone health (K2)
– Contributes to heart health (K2)
– Anti-cancer
– Anti-oxidant

B2 (riboflavin)
B12 (cobalamin)
B9 (folate, folic acid)
B5 (Pantothenic acid)

– Supports cellular health
– Increases energy
– Improves eyesight
– Improves cardiovascular health
– Increases muscle tone
– Improves nerve function
– Increases brain function

Carbohydrates

Insoluble 
Soluble 

*recommended daily fiber
-men 35 grams
-women 25 grams

-Raspberries have the highest amount of fiber

– Can help with weight control due to reduction in appetite
– Reduce blood sugar spike
– Support gut health and a healthy microbiome
– Contribute to a feeling of being full
– Regulate bowel movements and reduce constipation
– May reduce the chance of colon cancer
– May lower cholesterol levels
– Provide energy

-Blueberries have the highest amount of carbs. 2 times more than strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

– Can help with weight control due to reduction in appetite
– Reduce blood sugar spike
– Support gut health and a healthy microbiome
– Contribute to a feeling of being full
– Regulate bowel movements and reduce constipation
– May reduce the chance of colon cancer
– May lower cholesterol levels
– Provide energy

Antioxidants

Lutein 
Zeaxanthin

– Support eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration (leading cause of blindness as we age)
– Support skin health

A. Flavonoids:
    a. Flavonols
         i. Quercetin
    b. *Anthocyanins (Anthocyanidins)
B. Phenolic acids
    a. Ellagic acid

*Anthocyanins (provide the blue color in blueberries as well as colors of other berries).

Note: there are many subtypes of anthocyanins. They cross the blood brain barrier.

– Reduce excessive inflammation in the body
– Are synergistic and have multifunctional positive effects on the body
– May reduce incidence of Parkinson’s disease
– Anti-cancer
– Boost brain health
– Improve memory
– Neutralize free radicals and reduce damage to cells and their components
– Fight heart disease
– Fight neurodegenerative diseases
– Fight any diseases associated with oxidative stress (too many free radicals).
– May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease

How and Where to Buy Berries

Fresh Berries

Look for organic

The Environmental Working Group put together a list called The Dirty Dozen which includes the produce you should buy organic, due to the high level of pesticides.  Strawberries are on the list, so try to buy them organic as much as possible.  While other berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries aren’t part of The Dirty Dozen, I highly recommend buying them organic because they are hard to wash individually and pesticides lurk in the little crooks.  If you don’t buy organic, use a handmade vinegar fruit wash so that you can soak your fruit and remove as much of the pesticides as possible.

Fresh Berries

Look for organic

The Environmental Working Group put together a list called The Dirty Dozen which includes the produce you should buy organic, due to the high level of pesticides.  Strawberries are on the list, so try to buy them organic as much as possible.  While other berries like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries aren’t part of The Dirty Dozen, I highly recommend buying them organic because they are hard to wash individually and pesticides lurk in the little crooks.  If you don’t buy organic, use a handmade vinegar fruit wash so that you can soak your fruit and remove as much of the pesticides as possible.

Buy berries in season when you can! Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries are best bought in season from a local farmer.  Notice the difference in size and in taste compared to the berries you buy at the store.
Sometimes local farmers grow different varieties of familiar berries. It can be fun to learn about the different colors and flavors of local berries!  Buying locally from an organic farmer ensures that you are getting the freshest, tastiest and most nutrient dense berries!
Ethnic grocery stores are another place to experiment with unique berries. Check out the one in your area to see what kind of berries (fresh, dried, or frozen) that they carry!

Another great way to enjoy berries is to plant a berry bush in your garden! It’s exciting to watch the progression from flower to unripe berry to ripe berry! And it’s a one-time payment for years and years of fresh berries!
Find a berry picking farm nearby and go pick berries for a day! Most U-Pick farms have much better prices than buying at the store, and you can pick a lot to freeze and eat later in the season. It’s also a fun family outing!

Don’t forget about frozen berries!  If you are using berries to bake out of season, buy frozen as it is much more cost effective.  Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh berries, especially when they are frozen shortly after they are picked!  Also, to save on cost, buy fresh blueberries when they’re in season and the price is low. Wash them and then immediately freeze them to enjoy later. 

If you buy juices, be sure to look for a quality, organic brand with no added sugar. Juices already have way more sugar than the fruit itself, and most juices have lots of added sugar. If you’re going to have juice, dilute it with water (or sparkling water!) or use just a splash in your smoothies. Especially be aware of cranberry juice! Most are loaded with added sugar.
You can also buy some berries in extracts (like cranberry or elderberry). This is good if you want the benefits of the berry but have a hard time finding a fresh source.  Make sure to buy a good quality extract from a reputable source.

How and Where to Buy Berries

Fresh berries

Fresh Berrries:

As you can see in the nutrition profile, all berries have slightly different qualities and amounts of nutrients, so it’s great to mix them up in your diet!  There are over 400 types to maximize all the different and important nutrients.  The great thing about berries is that they are delicious as is!  

Wash fresh berries before eating them (Yes, you should still wash organic berries too!). Have your kids wash the berries.  In our house we have a wash bowl, a.  A rinse bowl, and a drying towel station.  Be aware that once you wash berries they will go bad faster, so either wash the amount you are going to eat that day, or make sure you plan to eat them all (or freeze them) soon if you wash them all at once. 

Fresh Berrries:

As you can see in the nutrition profile, all berries have slightly different qualities and amounts of nutrients, so it’s great to mix them up in your diet!  There are over 400 types to maximize all the different and important nutrients.  The great thing about berries is that they are delicious as is!  

Wash fresh berries before eating them (Yes, you should still wash organic berries too!). Have your kids wash the berries.  In our house we have a wash bowl, a.  A rinse bowl, and a drying towel station.  Be aware that once you wash berries they will go bad faster, so either wash the amount you are going to eat that day, or make sure you plan to eat them all (or freeze them) soon if you wash them all at once. 

Fresh berries

Sprinkle a few berries (three to four) on your kids breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. Fewer berries are less intimidating than an entire handful.  The natural sweetness will contrast the other foods.  Berries are fun to play with too.  Have your kids make a raspberry/blueberry cone by placing a blueberry inside a raspberry. See how many raspberries they can stack!

Frozen berries:

Frozen berries are a great way to preserve fresh berries to use when out of season and a really cost effective way to use berries (especially for baking and smoothies):

– Make smoothies with your frozen berries and some water (or coconut water/milk).
– Pop some frozen berries in your water to keep it cool and add a subtle flavor.
– Make popsicles.
– Frozen berries can also be a fun, cooling snack in the summer all by themselves!

Dried berries:

Dried berries can be good in small amounts to use in baking or to pack in a homemade trail mix. But remember! Fresh or frozen berries are better than dried berries.  Dried berries have only 20 percent as many phytonutrients and a lot more sugar!

Juices & extracts:

Some berries are a little too sour for enjoying fresh. Raw cranberries, for example, have a strong nutrition profile but they are bitter and tart. Consider adding them to a smoothie with other fruits.

Berries

Fun Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Berries

Berries are a good snack especially for those seeking a low carb but nutrient dense snack. Also, a great snack for diabetics and people on a ketogenic diet.

– Berries are great in smoothies.  Consider frozen berries for this.
– Experiment with different flavors of muffins, while you fold the berries into the dough before baking.
– Make coconut ice cream (no ice cream machine required!) and use different berries to flavor it.
– Make whipped cream and flavor using real berries.
– Put berries into your water for a subtle flavor.
– Make popsicles using berries.
– Experiment with different berries in muffins or quick breads! Just fold some berries into the batter at the end and carry on with your recipe. (You can use frozen or dried berries for this too).
– Top a bowl of yogurt with berries.
 -Throw some fresh berries on top of your salad.

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