Berries taste great. And they are coming into season!

Berries are colorful, tasty and best of all- good for you. Alone or added to other dishes, berries are a great way to pack extra nutritional punch to your diet.

Berries are considered nutrient-dense and give a lot of nutrition per serving. They do this while being relatively low in calories and are a good source of fiber.

In addition, berries are an excellent source of antioxidants and polyphenols- compounds the fight of inflammation and cancer, and improve cholesterol. Studies have shown that berries improve the immune function and reduce oxidative stress. A moderate supply of berries (1/2 cup to 1 cup per day) has been shown to improve cognitive functions and may help delay or prevent the onset of dementia.

Variety is key

Of the most popular berries, blueberries have the highest content flavonals. On the other hand, you will get a larger dose of potassium, fiber and vitamin C from strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Mix and match berries based on preference, what’s in season and what’s on sale.

As with most foods, fresh is the best. Like all fresh fruits and vegetables, berries start to lose vitamin content once they have been harvested. Eating berries within 5 days of harvest would maximize nutrition and limit spoilage.

Freezing berries, halts most nutrient loss and extends their shelf life for about 10 months. Since berries are expensive, freezing is a great way to save money and reduce food waste. Fiber minerals do not change significantly when fruits are frozen.

Dried berries are another option- but be careful. Dried are more concentrated, so watch total sugar and stick to smaller (1/4 cup) portions. Calorie content is also higher per serving in berries. There are about 270 calories in ½ cup of dried blueberries.

Another option: freeze dried berries. Freeze dried may lose vitamin content, but, like frozen, retain many of the nutrients from the field.

A few suggestions for adding berries to your diet:

• Thawed berries are a good substitute for pancake syrup.

• Thaw a cup of berries: raspberries and blueberries, in microwave and put on plain greek yogurt. Top with a bit of crunchy whole grain cereal. A super simple meal!

• Adding chopped strawberries to a fresh salsa is a fun twist for healthy snacking.

In general, you can sneak in berries to salad dressings, sauces, smoothies, flavored water and lunch boxes. Pretty much any meal can incorporate berries, even if it’s just the garnish.

Pam Meyer is the Wellness Director at Benedictine Living Communities — Wahpeton.

Load comments