Health Benefits of Berries

Fresh berries are delicious nutrient powerhouses that span the seasons. Harvest and store these fruits with our expert tips, use them in our delicious recipes, and gain the health benefits of berries.

| May/June 2007

  • Juicy and packed with antioxidants, berries are the perfect summertime snack.
  • Enjoy nutrient powerhouse berries that span the seasons, from blueberries to cranberries, March to December.
    Photo by emmi

At our house, the arrival of fresh berries always is a highly anticipated event, whether we’re gathering wild berries, harvesting our own fresh from the garden, or buying them at our local farmers’ market or favorite store. Eaten just as they are, berries are delicious, with all the appeal of a snack food—just rinse and chow down. When the summer sun brings their flavor to peak perfection, fresh-picked berries are undoubtedly one of the highlights of the season. And whether used fresh in salads or cooked in recipes from appetizers to desserts, berries elevate the taste of just about any food.

Berry Recipes

Cranberry-Cornmeal Muffins
Healthy Blueberry Smoothie
Sautéed Salmon with Blackberry Sauce
Baby Greens Salad with Strawberries and Strawberry-Balsamic Dressing
Blueberry Cobbler
Triple Berry Sorbet
Raspberry Cheesecake
3 Summertime Treats 

Health Benefits of Berries

Besides being delicious, berries are healthful. Berries are brimming with an overwhelming number of beneficial compounds, such as anthocyanins, catechins, quercetin, ellagic acid and pterostilbene, a relative of the powerful antioxidant resveratrol found in grapes and red wine. These naturally occurring substances help neutralize free radicals—unstable oxygen molecules that damage body cells in ways that lead to disease and aging. The numerous phytochemicals present in berries also offer further health benefits with preventive, protective and other functional properties. In fact, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries possess some of the highest antioxidant capacities among fresh fruits.

In addition to offering a storehouse of phytochemicals, berries also are packed with dietary fiber—nondigestible carbohydrates and lignins that help support digestion and bowel regularity as well as maintain normal blood sugar, cholesterol levels and a healthy heart. Beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium and folic acid also are “berried treasures” found within these tasty fruits. Simply put, eating berries on a regular basis might just be your hedge against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and other chronic and degenerative diseases. Now that’s something worth chewing on.

Berry Picking

Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are universal favorites and are readily available most of the year (summer is the peak season). You might be able to find locally grown berries as early as March all the way through December, depending on the berry and growing region. Fresh cranberries always are a holiday hit and generally are available from September through December.

When buying berries, let your eyes and nose be your guide. Look for plump, brightly colored berries showing no signs of mold, dehydration or being crushed—a sure sign of fruit that either is stored improperly, stored too long or is overripe. Truly flavorful and ripe berries should be fragrant, so pick up a basket and take a whiff—berries should smell as good as they taste.

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