One day a farmer was pushing a wheelbarrow full of fertilizer down the sidewalk past an insane asylum. As he passed by, one of the patients watching from over the wall said, “Hey, what ya got in the wheelbarrow?” The farmer replied, “It’s some manure to put on my strawberries.” The patient seemed surprised and retorted, “Boy, you oughta be in here. We get sugar and cream on ours!” In reality, regardless of what you do or don’t put on your berries, these little fruits are delicious and also super nutrient packed.
I want to talk to you about berries, all kinds of berries…well, not Captain Crunch Berries. I’m talking blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, and even Goji and elderberries. As a class, berries are loaded with nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and amazing health benefits. Is it any wonder they are the favorite entreè on the menu for bears in the wild?
There are literally hundreds of varieties of berries available, giving you plenty of choices. Most berries are seasonal and, even though fresh is by far preferred, frozen berries are available in the off season, are great for smoothies, and retain much of their nutrient value. It is important that berries be purchased when they are fully ripe as they will not ripen after they are picked like many other fruits and vegetables.
The average berry is 85–90% water, high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, and rich in dietary fiber. This natural fiber acts as a broom, sweeping the intestines clean. If you consume berries regularly, you won’t need to buy those expensive packets of drinkable fiber. Besides helping to maintain a healthy gastro-intestinal tract, they are potent blood cleansers and purifiers, help balance the body's pH, and aid in reducing heart disease.
Studies have shown that berries possess some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fruit or vegetable, an honor matched only by spinach and kale. These antioxidants include vitamin C; anthocyanins that are responsible for the red, purple, and blue color pigments; catechins like those found in green tea; ellagic acid with antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic properties; and gallic acid like that found in black tea and red wine. Berries are also a rich source of the popular and wonder-antioxidant resveratrol. The measure of antioxidant potency is called the ORAC Score. Berries possess one of the highest ORAC values which means they help slow the aging process of both body and brain on a cellular level. Generally speaking, the darker color the fruit, the more antioxidants it contains, and berries are rich and dark in many colors.
They also have phytochemicals that provide flavor, color, and scent. They possess an ample supply of rutin, a bioflavonoid that promotes vascular health. Some berries even have salicylic acid, a compound that has the same protective effect against heart disease as taking a daily aspirin. The health giving virtues of berries are impressive indeed: anti-inflammatory, lowering cholesterol, balancing blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, giving skin radiance, slowing the aging process, and even aiding in joint flexibility.
Berries bring all these benefits plus they are a delicious addition to any cereal, salad, or smoothie. Berries are truly one of nature’s finest gifts and all this can be enjoyed without added sugar, syrup, cream, or manure, even though the last one may be a good source of fiber.