Welcome Summer and Berry Season!

by Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CDN

Berries may be little, but blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and boysenberries top the charts in terms of antioxidant power.  Antioxidants protect your body against inflammation and free radicals which can damage cells and organs.  Eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants may help improve your health and prevent certain diseases.

There are several powerful antioxidants that are in berries, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C.  Anthocyanins not only give berries their vibrant color but they may also help reduce inflammation and may prevent and manage arthritis.  Anthocyanins work with quercetin to help slow age-related memory-loss.  Quercetins may decrease the inflammatory effects of chemicals in the synovial fluid of joints for those that have inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.  Vitamin C may help maintain cartilage stores and aid in joint flexibility.  Eating vitamin C rich berries may also reduce the risk of arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Blueberries are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and folate.  One cup of fresh blueberries contains 84 calories, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 1.1 grams of protein, 0.49 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of dietary fiber.  One cup of blueberries also provides 24% of daily vitamin C, 5% of vitamin B6, 36% of vitamin K, and also provides iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, folate, beta-carotene, folate, choline, vitamin A and vitamin E.  There are many studies that suggest that increasing your consumption of blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality.

Strawberries are packed with fiber, contain high levels of antioxidants, are a good source of manganese and potassium, are high in folic acid, and just one serving (about 8 strawberries) provides more vitamin C than an orange!  One cup of  fresh strawberries contain: 49 calories, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 2 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of protein, 0 gram of fat, 3 grams of dietary fiber, as well as 149% vitamin C, 2% calcium, and 3% iron. Strawberries may protect your heart, lower blood pressure, and guard against cancer.

Raspberries, Blackberries, and Boysenberries each contain about 8 grams of fiber in one cup.   Raspberries contain the antioxidants alpha and beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and choline.  The potassium in raspberries may support hearth health as well.  Blackberries are a good source of folate and full of potent antioxidants that may help with arthritis, age-related memory-loss, cataracts, and other eyesight problems.  Finally, Boysenberries contain anthocyanins which are potent antioxidants that may help with arthritis and age-related memory-loss.

So don’t forget to add berries to your menu this summer.  If you cannot find fresh berries all year round, frozen unsweetened berries are a great substitute during the off-season months and just as nutritious!