IT’S BERRY SEASON:

6 GOOD REASONS TO INDULGE – AND BOOST YOUR HEALTH WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!

Female eating a bowl of mixed berries

 

I admit it – I’m hooked. Not generally a greedy person, when I’m faced with bushes of free berries, I go nuts. Ballistic. I can’t stop myself. Not only that, but I can’t pass the berry display in the grocery store without nabbing at least a few packages. I love berries!

In my effort to rationalize these behaviors, I’ve taken a careful look at the health benefits of berries. They’re among the healthiest foods on the planet. Who knew?

Berries Are Stars at Neutralizing Free Radicals in Your Body

Free radicals are those pesky incomplete oxygen molecules that try to replace their missing electron with one from another body cell.

Anthocyanin, the antioxidant in berries, has been shown to check this free radical activity, hence reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

As we get older, we need more antioxidants to combat these free radicals, and blueberries are number one at doing just that. A half cup of blueberries provides the same antioxidant power as five servings of other fruits and vegetables such as carrots, peas, apples, squash, and broccoli.

Recent research has shown that blueberries are particularly successful in lowering blood pressure and improving vascular health because of their antioxidants.

Better yet, the antioxidant strength of berries increases over time, so berries you pop in the freezer can be more beneficial than the ones you pop into your mouth as you pick.

Berries Are Low in Calories

I was astonished when I learned that a full cup of strawberries is only 49 calories. And they’re so good! A medium apple has 95 calories yet offers half the health benefit of berries. Here are the calorie counts for a cup of my other favorite berries:

  • blackberries: 62 cal
  • blueberries: 84 cal
  • strawberries: 49 cal
  • raspberries: 64 cal
  • cranberries: 50 cal

Berries Are High in Fiber

In case you’re not aware, we need fiber to keep our systems moving, and as we age that becomes more and more of a challenge.

Foods high in fiber also take longer to work their way through our systems, which leads to reduced hunger and increased feeling of fullness. So, not only are berries low in calories, but they might even help us lose weight. Amazing!

Berries May Keep Us Young

A Department of Agriculture Study on Aging at Tufts University had a large group of healthy, older adults consume at least a cup of freeze-dried berries daily, while a control group was given a placebo.

Results showed that eating berries on a regular basis improves key factors of age-related decline, particularly cognitive skills and short term memory. Maybe berries will help me avoid that frantic search for the right noun that’s become my nemesis.

Does that mean berries will keep us young? Maybe. Could it also mean blueberries are better for me than spinach? Hey!

Berries Are Extremely Nutritious

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, with one cup of berries supplying 150% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is necessary for both the growth and repair of all our body tissues, so that’s pretty important.

All berries provide vitamin C as well as manganese, a nutrient essential for bone health. As we get older, we need to do everything we can to keep our bones strong, and berries are one way to do that.

Fresh Berries Can Significantly Reduce the Buildup of LDL Cholesterol

If you worry about your cholesterol levels, reach for the blackberries first, but all berries have a similar effect in lowering LDL (the bad cholesterol), consequently reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Berries Taste Great

Who among us doesn’t smile at the prospect of a bowl of strawberries with cream? Or a sprinkling of raspberries on a salad? I don’t think there’s a fruit that I enjoy more than berries, and that makes me happy. They’re just berry delicious.

And then, if you’re like me, you enjoy picking berries. Hence, another health benefit – exercise. I love to canoe up a local river for my blueberries, which involves packing a lunch (25 calories), heaving my canoe on the car (50 calories), picking up a friend (0 calories), then paddling up the river to our secret blueberry portage (another 500 calories expended).

Then we have to hike, stoop, and squat to pick the berries (100 calories). Of course, we finish by cooling off with a swim in the river (another 100 calories), for a total of nearly 1000 calories burned. Yup, it’s a win-win.

Once I return home with a gallon of precious wild blueberries, I can indulge with impunity, knowing they’re doing me a world of good.

What’s your favorite berry? Do you buy or grow it? How do you prefer to eat it? Any special recipes you’d like to share? Please do in the comments below!

Let’s Have a Conversation!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a lake in northern Minnesota with her husband, Jerry, and their two dogs. She’s published three books as well as numerous articles and columns. You can read about her years of teaching in Istanbul on her blog http://amershon.edublogs.org
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