Get to know your favorite smoothie ingredient a little better.
Blueberries: Live up to the hype.
Berries typically have 4 times the antioxidant activity of most other fruits, and 10 times that of most veggies – and blueberries are at the top of the list. They have been studied for their benefits in everything from brain health to heart disease, and are part of a healthy diet that reduces the risk of many diseases.
The blueberries we know now were cultivated in the early 1900s from a mere 6 wild plants. Today there are over 80 varieties, all with exceptional nutrient density. Whether fresh, frozen, or 100% juice, blueberries in all forms will deliver an excellent dose of antioxidants, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Dried blueberries lose up to 50-80% of their antioxidants in the drying process, but that’s still more than most fruits and vegetables!
Two tips: first, if thawing blueberries do it in the microwave as opposed to room temperature, as microwaving will eliminate the time needed for the fruit’s enzymes to break down nutrients. Second, cooking blueberries changes the chemical structure of the nutrients in blueberries, making them more bioavailable – that means you’re likely to absorb more nutrients from cooked blueberries than fresh!
Raspberries and Blackberries: Fiber for days.
One cup of raspberries or blackberries contains a whopping 8-10 grams of fiber, compared to about 3 grams for other berries. That’s 32% of our recommended daily intake of fiber (25 grams)! Fiber’s main role in our body is to regulate digestion, bind to and remove excess cholesterol from the body, and add bulk to our meals to help us stay full. For those reasons alone, choosing a frozen bag of mixed berries over blueberries alone is worth the switch.
Blackberries have not changed much in their history of cultivation, and thus have similarly high antioxidant content to their wild predecessors. Of two main varieties of raspberries, red and black, the black raspberries have more antioxidant value.
Tip: If you have a hard time finding fresh black raspberries in our area (they’re native to the West coast), look for freeze-dried powders online or in stores. They maintain their nutritive value and are better options than capsules found in most supplement stores. One option is BerriHealth, a small farming company from Oregon whose dried black raspberry powder is used in scientific research studies.
Strawberries: A little dose of sunshine.
One cup of whole strawberries contains 141% of our daily recommended value of vitamin C – that’s about 10% more than a medium orange! Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant in the body that reduces the damage our cells get from both free radicals and the aging process. The brighter and deeper the berry, the more rich in nutrients it is. To get the best antioxidant value and flavor, avoid choosing strawberries with bald spots or soft damaged areas. Choosing your strawberries carelessly will get you bland or even bitter fruit.
Tip: Leave your strawberries out at room temperature for 12-24 hours to deepen their flavor and aroma before enjoying.
Final tips on berries:
1) Enjoy within a day or two for maximum flavor and minimal nutrient loss. If it’ll take longer, freeze fresh fruit on a sheet pan, separating the fruit as much as possible, and then store in freezer bags. Dusting berries with cane or powdered sugar will help slow down the oxidation process berries go through which break down their nutrients. This means they’ll have a higher antioxidant content when you eat them!
2) Berries are one of the most heavily sprayed crops – part of the Environmental Working Group’ “Dirty Dozen.” These are produce items likely sprayed consistently with pesticides throughout the growing process. If you are trying to minimize exposure to pesticides, choose organic berries. If you can’t afford the high price, make sure to soak and rinse well any conventionally grown berries you purchase.
3) Look into growing your own berries if you have the space! The plants return year after year and will continue to bear fruit as well as off-shoots you can plant to continue to increase the size of your yield. Nourse Farms in Whately, MA has a huge variety of berry plants they will ship right to your door within a day or two!