Reap Big Benefits from Summer’s Tiny Gems
Fresh berries, nature’s little gems, full of flavor and flavonoids, reach their peak during the warmer months. Each berry’s burst of juicy deliciousness carries antioxidants, vitamins C and E, riboflavin and fiber that work to fight obesity, protect brain function and promote urinary health. The red, blue and purple pigments in berries, known as anthocyanins, also help our bodies detoxify, repair damaged DNA, fight cancer and help lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, levels.
The Department of Food Science and Technology at Oregon State University cites scores of studies that point to the many health benefits from consuming a variety of fresh berries. Each berry offers not only a unique flavor and color, but also a particular health protection.
Black Raspberries. The dark purple member of the raspberry family grows on low shrubs and ripens in summer. This member of the berry corps helps fight oral, esophageal and colon cancers.
Blackberries and Marionberries. Members of the rose family, these berries grow on shrubs and ripen in mid-to-late summer. Both help digestion and prevent salmonella growth.
Blueberries. Powerhouse blueberries also grow on low shrubs and generally ripen in early summer. This renowned berry offers whole-body protection against many diseases and aging.
Cherries. Sour cherries ripen in early summer, while sweet cherries reach their peak later in summer. Both types help reduce inflammation, especially with occurrences associated with gout.
Grapes. Dark purple Concord grapes, often found in home gardens or at farmers’ markets, ripen in the fall. Their resveratrol content is a key help in combating the effects of aging.
Strawberries. These delicious favorites ripen throughout the year in various parts of the country. Strawberries help fight breast and cervical cancers.
Home gardeners that grow berries know exactly what fertilizers and natural pesticides have been placed in or on them. Buying organic berries at the local farmers’ market or the grocery store ensures that the health benefits of fresh berries are not undercut by infiltrated pesticides or anti-fungal chemicals used by agribusiness, both here and abroad.
Right before serving, berries may be gently rinsed, and then patted completely dry; they will keep well in the refrigerator as long as they are not crowded together.
Summer berries can star in cool treats throughout the day. At breakfast, they’re a welcome wake-up flavor for cereal or yogurt. As a snack, they’re perfect whether eaten by the handful or turned into frozen yogurt pops. Seasonal berries can be combined with quinoa or couscous for easy summer salads. They also add a special note when friends and family toast the end of the day with an iced tea, enhanced with fresh blackberries and mint.
Pairing berries with low-fat ingredients, whole grains, fresh produce and natural sweeteners makes for fast, fresh and fabulous summer dishes that keep us cool all summer long.