Enjoy Healthy Berries

Posted: July 29, 2012

July is National Berries Month. Berries are nutritious and loaded with vitamins and minerals, many of which are classified as antioxidants...

According to Dr. Lisa Franzen-Castle, Extension Nutrition Specialist with the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension, researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture found that blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries were among the top 11 foods for antioxidant activity. Antioxidants may help increase our immune function and protect against cancer and heart disease. Berries are also rich in vitamin C and fiber, a fair source of potassium and folate and are relatively low in calories.

     When purchasing berries, avoid buying bruised or oozing berries, and make sure you turn the container over to check berries at the bottom. Strawberries don't ripen after harvest, so stay away from green or yellow ones. Steer away from blueberries that are green or blackberries that are red. Raspberries come in a variety of colors; make sure the ones you buy have the right color.

     * Look for firm, plump, full-colored berries. At home, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Wash fruits immediately before preparing or eating. Use clean running water, rub fruits briskly with your hands, and dry after.

     * Store berries covered in the refrigerator, but do not wash until ready to use. Although best eaten soon after picking or purchasing, fresh berries will hold for a few days in the refrigerator.

     * Berries can easily be frozen. Place a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then transfer the frozen berries to heavy duty freezer bags. Wash the berries later, just prior to eating or using in baked goods.  Dr. Lisa Franzen-Castle offers these tips to increase your berry consumption.

* Add berries to foods you already eat. Try adding sliced strawberries to a bowl of whole grain cereal, stir raspberries into vanilla yogurt, or sprinkle blueberries on a salad. If you like to grill, try making fruit kabobs that incorporate berries with other fruits such as pineapple chunks, bananas and grapes. Or cut your portion of ice cream in half and add different berries to make your cool treat higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

     * Keep various forms of berries on hand. Fresh berries are naturally sweet and can be enjoyed with little preparation. Frozen berries can be used when berries aren’t in season or to make frozen fruit smoothies. Just blend them with fat free milk or yogurt for a refreshing treat. Dried fruit is another alternative and make a quick snack. 

     Enjoy nutritious berries often. They provide many benefits and will give your diet a nutritional boost while you enjoy their wonderful flavors.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County