Berries are a delicious and healthy treat! In luscious shades, of red, purple, and blue, you have many to choose from and each is chocked full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep your cells healthy too.
Whether you buy berries fresh or frozen, you’re supplying your body with an array of nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium. Plus, they’re an excellent source of fiber. Studies show frozen berries are as nutritious, or more so than fresh berries because they’re flash-frozen after harvest when they’re most nutritious. Flash freezing protects them from further nutrient loss.
While you can eat berries as a snack, you can also enjoy their benefits in creative ways, by adding them to recipes. We’ll look at ways to do that, but, first, let’s look at why you would want to add more berries to your plate.
Berries Are “The Bomb” for Brain Health
Berries are an abundant source of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that cause cell damage. The top three berries for brain health are blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. These colorful orbs are rich in phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory activity, including anthocyanins, the purple pigment that gives blueberries and blackberries their rich hue.
Some research suggests eating blueberries regularly may help protect against memory loss and cognitive decline associated with aging. Plus, berries are easy on your blood sugar, another factor that’s beneficial for your brain. People with type 2 diabetes and elevated blood sugar are at higher risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia.
One study discussed on Harvard Health found that women who consumed at least two servings of blueberries and strawberries weakly enjoyed a slower rate of mental decline. This study was only proven to show an association and doesn’t show a causal link, but the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in berries could explain the brain perks of eating berries.
They’re a Heart Healthy Snack
As mentioned, berries are high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory activity that is beneficial for heart and blood vessel health. Plus, blueberries have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol levels – and there’s more.
A study found reductions in systolic blood pressure and markers of blood glucose control in berry eaters. One reason may be the potassium and antioxidant content of berries. Another study found that women who consumed 3 or more servings of strawberries or blueberries each week had a 34% lower risk of developing a heart attack. These benefits bode well for heart and blood vessel health.
Berries Support Skin and Joint Health
One function of vitamin C is to keep the collagen in your skin and joints healthy. Vitamin C helps prevent the breakdown of collagen, which is the main protein in your skin responsible for your skin’s elasticity and strength. As collagen breaks down, skin loses its support structure, and wrinkles and skin laxity show up.
Vitamin C also helps to keep joints healthy by reducing inflammation and protecting the cartilage within the joint. There are many foods rich in Vitamin C, not just citrus fruits. Did you know that a cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than a medium orange?
Plus, strawberries have less natural sugar than an orange, so they’re easier on your blood glucose level. In fact, strawberries are one of the lowest-sugar fruits there is. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant vitamin that helps maintain healthy immune function. It may not prevent colds, but some studies show it shortens their duration by a day or so.
Now that you’re convinced that berries are a healthy snack, let’s look at some creative ways to enjoy them.
- Add them to your yogurt or cereal for breakfast or brunch.
- Make a smoothie with fresh or frozen berries, almond milk, and some protein powder for a quick breakfast on the go. Mix berries into pancakes or waffle batter before cooking them up.
- Toss fresh berries with your favorite salad greens and add homemade dressing on top for an easy lunch or dinner side dish.
- Add berries to your morning cereal or porridge. Top your favorite bowl of cereal with fresh berries instead of sugary fruit loops or marshmallows.
- Make a berry salsa with fresh mint and lime juice. Serve it with tortilla chips or over grilled chicken breast or a fish fillet for a sweet yet savory meal low in calories but high in flavor.
- Use frozen berries instead of ice cubes when making smoothies or shakes.
- Add chopped fresh strawberries or blueberries to homemade muffins or quick bread.
- Make smoothies by blending frozen berries with milk or yogurt along with fruit juice or ice cubes.
- Stir into plain yogurt for a sweet treat packed with nutrition (and skip the added sugars)
- Enjoy berries with whipped cream as an alternative to less healthy desserts.
Berries are one of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, and they come in an abundance of colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors. They’re available all year long, but their peak season is summer through early fall. Plus, there are many ways to enjoy them.
One of the best places to source fresh berries is at your local farmer’s market. Another option is to pick berries at a local berry farm when they’re in season. You’ll get exercise and sunshine too! If you can’t eat berries quickly, buy packs of organic frozen berries at your local supermarket. They’ll keep for at least 8 months in the freezer and you won’t have to rush to use them. Enjoy the many health benefits of berries and add them to more of your recipes!
- Natural Product Insider. “Berry Science”
- Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;2013(1):CD000980. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4. PMID: 23440782; PMCID: PMC8078152.
- “Berries keep your brain sharp – Harvard Gazette.” news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/04/berries-keep-your-brain-sharp/.
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- Br J Nutr. 2008 Jul;100(1):70-8.
- BBC News. “Cranberries Block Tooth Decay”
- “Fruit of the month: Berries – Harvard Health.” 01 Jun. 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/fruit-of-the-month-berries.
- Paredes-López O, Cervantes-Ceja ML, Vigna-Pérez M, Hernández-Pérez T. Berries: improving human health and healthy aging, and promoting quality life–a review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Sep;65(3):299-308. doi: 10.1007/s11130-010-0177-1. PMID: 20645129.