If you follow me on social media you have no doubt seen my recommendations before that you try and incorporate 2-3 servings of berries into your diet every day. Why are berries so health promoting and which types should we focus on?
Berries, and high antioxidant foods in general, have been clinically shown to protect against cardiovascular disease, boost liver & brain function and improve immunity (1,2,3,4). In addition the high concentration of antioxidants (more antioxidants than all other food groups except herbs & spices) and polyphenol compounds in Berries makes them super protective in terms of preventing free radical or cancerous cells from wreaking havoc in the body. For those unsure of the term ‘antioxidant’ basically an antioxidant by definition is a health promoting molecule that is able to stabilise an otherwise unstable molecule in your body.
It’s worth noting that you can usually select antioxidant rich foods when shopping by opting for colourful foods. For example the bright red colour in tomatoes is from the antioxidant ‘Lycopene’ and then orange colour in Carrots & Sweet Potato is from the antioxidant ‘Beta-Carotene’. Sometimes a certain fruit or vegetable comes in a colourful version and a less colourful version and as a general rule of thumb I recommend where possible to opt for the more colourful option. E.g brown onion instead of white. Sweet potato instead of white potato. Red grapes instead of green. It’s also worth noting that the antioxidants are what create the pigment so if the pigment is in the skin of the fruit or vegetable, don’t peel that off, eat it so you get the antioxidant hit. So try and remove pale foods (white bread, white rice, white potato, white onions etc) from your grocery cart and replace them with vibrant ones for a naturally healthier week of eating.
What berries are richest in antioxidants?
The most commonly accessible berries that pack a huge antioxidant punch are blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Cranberries, Strawberries, Goji Berries and Cherries.
Is the fructose in berries something to worry about?
As per my recent blog on Sugar, when sugars are consumed in their natural state along with dietary fibre and antioxidants they are no associated with weight gain and do not have the same effect on blood sugar and insulin as consuming the equivalent amount of sugar in refined form simply in a cup of water by itself (5,6). There are actually studies that have shown if you consume fruit and then have a glass of refined sugar water the fruit helps to blunt the blood sugar spike compared to just having the glass of refined sugar water on it’s own. So the even with the extra natural sugars in the fruit they have a health promoting effect better allowing you to control blood sugar levels due to their dietary fibre content.
What is a serve of berries?
For the average person a serve of berries is a good handful or half a cup. I regularly mix them into my overnight oats, my smoothies and even make healthy ice creams or other desserts with them. 1/2 a cup of mixed berries is typically 35-45 calories, so not much at all and contains some fibre to help take the edge off any binge eating type cravings.
Are frozen berries as good as fresh when it comes to nutrition?
Yes, studies have shown that the nutrition is pretty much maintained, and in some circumstances can be even better) and the benefits of frozen berries are that they last longer and are usually cheaper per KG (7,8). So moral of the story if you prefer fresh go for it. If you prefer frozen then that’s equally as fine. Just get them into your diet someway or other in their natural whole food form (i.e not a strawberry juice that’s been processed and is for sale in the fridge at a grocery store. Instead, buy the actual fruit and use them in your recipes/meals).
Should we wash berries before we eat them?
Yes, because they have a soft skin we should try and buy organic where possible and regardless of whether organic or conventional its best to give them a wash. Read my blog on Organic Vs Conventional produce for some washing tips.
Fan of Goji Berries?
Goji Berries are the third most antioxidant rich food of all common fruits and vegetables. To maximise the antioxidant absorption it is best to consume then with a plant based fat source like avocado, nuts or seeds. A healthy dessert is Goji Macadamia ‘nice cream’ which is made with Goji Berries, ½ cup frozen coconut milk, 1 frozen banana, cinnamon & ¼ cup of macadamias. You can blend the macadamia through to your desired consistency first, I personally like a little bit of crunch! Place all other ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth then add back in the macadamias and gently mix through. For some extra sweetness pulse in organic maple syrup. This ‘nice’ cream is so simple and you can easily vary it from time to time by adding ingredients like hemp seeds, cacao powder, peanut butter powder, other berry varieties etc.
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