Berry season is here. Summer sunshine is everywhere and beautiful berries are bursting from the earth.
With so many delicious varieties available at local stores and farmers markets, now’s the perfect time to reap their benefits. Get creative and nourish body and soul by adding freshly picked berries to your yogurt, smoothies, salads, and granola. Or simply enjoy them as a refreshing standalone snack.
Every body loves berries
Why are berries so good for you? The secret’s in their bold, vibrant colors, which come from powerful antioxidants called flavonoids—more specifically a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. All have proven anti-inflammatory properties and benefit the immune system.
In fact, recent studies show that anthocyanins offer many impressive benefits. These include reducing high blood pressure, maintaining healthy vision, supporting clear thinking and enhancing brain function, and protecting the liver from toxins. These amazing flavonoids can also help improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism. Plus, they help protect against and repair your body from free radical damage. (Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that can damage DNA and cells throughout your body, causing aging and disease.) The deeper the colors, the richer the anthocyanin content, and the greater the benefit. Blueberries, blackberries and dark cherries are among the best sources.
Quercetin is another type of flavonoid found in berries. This powerful antioxidant helps protect and maintain healthy cells throughout the body. A natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce symptoms caused by seasonal and food allergies, as well as by asthma. Quercetin also protects against skin reactions from dermatitis and light sensitivity. Its anti-inflammatory properties can decrease joint swelling and pain in arthritis sufferers. No wonder consuming these colorful summer fruits is fabulous for your health. Your body simply loves them!
Your heart loves berries
Berries offer many marvelous benefits for your heart. In ancient mythology, strawberries were linked to the heart and Venus—the Goddess of Love—due to their shape, lusciousness, and deep, red color. It was said the strawberry, when shared with another person, would inspire love. That’s reason enough to eat them.
The anthocyanins in berries are known to help dilate arteries, protect the endothelial lining, reduce blood pressure, strengthen capillaries, and reduce platelet “clumping”, thereby discouraging plaque buildup. Berries also contain folate (Vitamin B9). This, along with other B vitamins, helps protect against cardiovascular disease by keeping harmful homocysteine levels down. In a recent study*, which included 93,000 women ranging in age from 25 to 42, participants who ate three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week reduced their risk of heart attack by as much as one third. So you can eat them to your heart’s content.
Think berries for your brain
Berries help reduce the risk of various types of dementia Strawberries decrease oxidation (free radical damage) and support neurological health. Bilberries protect against nerve and arterial damage. Blueberries improve memory and learning, and reduce free radicals that can damage brain cells. Anthocyanins help your brain produce more dopamine, which in turn, encourages a feeling of wellbeing. Folate supports serotonin production, and may help relieve depression and improve mood. Wow! I’m happier just thinking about eating them.
Beautify with berries
Berries are loaded with Vitamin C, which is vital to all tissue formation, growth, and repair. And that includes your skin. Vitamin C, along with anthocyanins, supports collagen health, which is crucial to youthful elasticity, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and protecting against sun damage. Collagen also promotes shiny, radiant hair. Need I say more?
Eat berries, shed pounds
Berries are juicy, low glycemic (low blood sugar impact) foods that contain high amounts of water. So whereas eating them fills you up quickly, your calorie intake is relatively low. That makes them a great, diet-conscious way to satisfy your sweet tooth while encouraging weight loss. Plus, berries are high in fiber, which supports digestive health and helps discourage obesity.
Choose berry wisely
Here are a few more berry important things to keep in mind. To avoid toxic pesticides and herbicides, stick to organic berries. The Environmental Working Group (EWG.com) states that strawberries are first on the list of foods that contain harmful pesticides. Anyone with digestive issues (irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis or diverticulosis) may need to avoid berries as their seed content can irritate the intestines. If you have a tendency toward high blood sugar, you should always moderate your fruit consumption.
Other than that, there’s no reason not to jump on the berry bandwagon. During off-season months, frozen are just as good, so long as they are organic and unsweetened. Your body and taste buds will dance with joy.
*Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2013;127:188-196.