With the longer days and summer sun comes the availability of some of my family’s favorite healthy foods – berries and cherries. For a few short weeks our grocery stores, local farmer’s market, and produce stands are brimming with these colorful nutrition power pellets.
However, for our family the excitement comes when the berries and cherries in the fields ripen and we can head out to the “You Pick” local farms. We track the harvests on social media, progressing through the summer weeks across the color spectrum from strawberries, to cherries, to raspberries, to blueberries, to blackberries. My kids’ favorites are the blueberries and golden raspberries, and we have been known to eat over 10 pounds in just one week!
WHAT MAKES BERRIES AND CHERRIES HEALTHY?
The rich blue, black, red and purple colors in berries are from antioxidants. An antioxidant is the component in berries and cherries that gives them their health superpowers that help protect the cells in your body from damage by free radicals.1 But what are free radicals?
To clarify, free radicals are unstable molecules in your cells that occur from metabolism, the breakdown of some medicines, and exposure to X-rays, cigarette smoke, ozone, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals.1,2 When free radical levels rise in your body, different diseases can be triggered.2 For example, research indicates that you may be able to reduce your risk for cancer, atherosclerosis, and inflammatory diseases including arthritis, lupus, and Alzheimer’s disease by neutralizing free radicals in your body with antioxidants, such as those found in berries and cherries.2
WHICH BERRIES ARE BEST?
Although each of the different berries have many health benefits, blueberries seem to be studied and discussed the most. Blueberries may improve heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol in the blood,3 may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce risk for type 2 diabetes,4,5 and has even been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.6 Steven Pratt, MD, author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, believes the brain boosting benefits of blueberries are so strong that he calls them “brainberries”.7 Interestingly, the health benefits of blueberries come from anthocyanin, which is the phytonutrient and antioxidant that gives blueberries their beautiful color.8
DO I NEED TO ONLY EAT FRESH OR ARE FROZEN BERRIES OK?
The growing season for each of the different types of berries is quite short. Therefore, enjoy them fresh while you can, and then eating frozen berries are a great solution the rest of the year. Our family loves berries and cherries almost any way we can get them. In fact, I have blueberries and nuts with coconut milk yogurt most mornings for breakfast. In addition, I like to add them to a glass of water, stuff them in my son’s almond flour crepes, use them as a topping on my Hazelnut pancakes, add them to a salad, bake with them, and just eat them by the handful! Just remember to enjoy the rainbow of summer berries without adding sugar or artificial sweeteners to maximize their health benefits.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that my family has been enjoying the bounty of berries available right now. Finally, you can find links to some of my favorite summer blueberry recipes below to get you started enjoying these nutrition power pellets:
Homemade Cashew Scream from Rebecca Katz
Blueberry Jelly Recipe from SuperMom
Raspberry Blueberry Lemonade from To Simply Inspire
Grilled Peaches and Blueberries from Taste of Home – (NOTE: I sub honey for the brown sugar)
Salmon with Agrodolce Blueberries from NYTimes Cooking
Chocolate Blueberry Smoothie from ME 🙂 Dr. Marci Hardy
Follow me, Dr. Marci Hardy, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to learn tips and gain inspiration from how I live a healthy life with my family.
- Antioxidants – Topic Overview. www.webmd.com/food-recipes/tc/antioxidants-topic-overview. Accessed June 24, 2017.
- Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free Radicals, antioxidants, and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2010; 4(8): 118-126.
- Basu A, et al. Blueberries decrease cardiovascular risk factors in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome. Journal of Nutrition. 2010; 140(9):1582-7.
- Stull A, et al. Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 2010; 140(10):1764-1768.
- Muraki I, et al. Fruit Consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies. BMJ. 2013;28:347.
- Devore EE, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol. 2012; 72(1):135-43.
- Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain. www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain. Accessed on June 24, 2017.
- Webb, D. Anthocyanins. Today’s Dietitian. March 2014; 16(3):20. todaysdietian.com/newarchives/030314p20.shtml. Accesses June 24, 2017.
Photo Credit: Ben Bender Photography