Berries, Berries, Berries!

I contend that there are many reasons why May is the best month of the year. It’s my birthday month, after all, and the whole month has rather a festive, playful atmosphere about it.

There are all manner of green trees, lawns, and shrubs, blossoms carrying the promise of more flowers to come, and, in most places winter is gone ….for sure, this time, and the sometimes oppressive heat of summer is still in the distance.

I also like that May is Strawberry Month. I have written about that before, so check it out here if you’d like to see what makes those plumb red delights with the cute little hats so outstanding. Click here for that article.

Strawberries are wonderful, no doubt, and they share the spotlight with other berries during the spring, especially in May. There are many reasons to love them as well.

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They are delicious, nutritious, and provide a number of impressive health benefits. Here are 10 good reasons to include them in your diet, and include them often.

1. Berries contain antioxidants, which help keep free radicals under control.

Free radicals are unstable molecules, that, while beneficial in small amounts, can damage cells in high numbers, causing oxidative stress. Antioxidants protect cells, and may reduce disease risk. One study showed that blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have the highest antioxidant activity of commonly consumed fruits, next to pomegranates. Other studies have confirmed that those antioxidants may help reduce oxidative stress.

2. Berries may help improve blood sugar and insulin response.

Both test-tube and human studies suggest that berries may protect your cells from high blood sugar levels, help increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood sugar and insulin response to high-carb meals.  In one study, for example, obese people with insulin resistance who drank a blueberry smoothie twice per day experienced greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than those who consumed berry-free smoothies.

Since insulin resistance is often a precursor of diabetes, it makes sense to work to lower it before diabetes, which is definitely on the rise in this country, takes hold. Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

3.  Berries are high in fiber.

Berries are a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber, which slows down the movement of food through your digestive tract. This, in turn, leads to reduced hunger and increased feelings of fullness, resulting in fewer calories consumed, which makes weight management much easier.

The high fiber content of berries renders them low in digestible, or net carbs, which are calculated by subtracting fiber from total carbs. Berries are definitely a low-carb-friendly food.

4. Berries provide many nutrients.

Berries, especially strawberries, are high in vitamin C. 1 cup of them provides 150% of the RDI for vitamin C, which provides many health benefits. The calorie count for 3.5 oz of berries ranges from 32 for strawberries to   57 for blueberries, making berries some of the lowest-calorie fruits around. The vitamin C is important for healthy skin.

5. Berries help fight inflammation.

Inflammation is your body’s defense against infection or injury.  However, modern lifestyles in this country often leads to excessive, long-term inflammation due to increased stress, inadequate and infrequent physical activity, and unhealthy food choices. For more on inflammation, click here.

This type of chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Studies suggest that the antioxidants in berries may help lower inflammatory markers.

One interesting study in overweight people, showed that hose drinking a strawberry beverage with a high-carb, high-fat meal noticed a more significant decrease in certain inflammatory markers that the control group.

6. Berries may help lower cholesterol.

Black raspberries and strawberries have been shown to help lower cholesterol in people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome. What’s more, berries may help prevent LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged, which is believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease.

7. Berries may help to protect against cancer.

Specifically, animal and human studies suggest that berries may protect against cancer of the  esophagus, mouth, breast, and colon.  In a study with 20 people with colon cancer, for example, eating 2 oz of freeze-dried raspberries for 1-9 weeks improved tumor markers in some participants, though not all. Another study , a test-tube one, found that all types of strawberries had strong, protective effects on liver cancer cells, regardless of whether they were high or low in antioxidants.

8. Berries may help keep your arteries healthy.

The cells that line your blood vessels are called endothelial cells. They help control blood pressure, keep blood from clotting, and perform other important functions. Excessive inflammation can damage these cells, inhibiting proper function, which is a major factor for heart disease. Even berries in processed forms may still provide some heart-healthy benefits, though fresh is best, followed by freeze dried.

9. Berries can be enjoyed on nearly all types of diets.

Some low-carb diets, such as keto, frown on fruit, but berries can be eaten in moderation. For example, a half-cup serving of blackberries or raspberries contains less than 4 grams of digestible carbs.  More liberal amounts of berries can be incorporated into paleo, Mediterranean, vegetarian, and vegan diets.

For people who are interested in losing weight, the few calories and relatively low sugar content in berries make them ideal to include in meals, snacks, or desserts. Organic and wild berries are now widely available in many parts of the world, and when they are not in season, as they are now in May, frozen organic berries can be purchased and thawed as needed.

The only people who need to avoid berries are those who require a low-fiber diet for certain digestive disorders, as well as individuals who are allergic to berries. Allergic reactions to strawberries are the most common of these.

10. Berries Can Be Eaten Alone or in Healthy Recipes.

Berries are undeniably delicious. They make a wonderful snack or dessert, whether you use just one type or a mix of two or more. They are naturally sweet and require no additional sweetener They go well with whole grains in the morning, on a salad at lunch, and as a delightful treat in the evening.

There are nearly endless versatility of berries. Here are a few recipes to try.

Seasonal Fruit Platter with Berry Dressing

Paradise in a Jar Salad

Strawberry Vanilla Sauce

Blueberry Cream Smoothie

By including berries in your diet on a regular basis, you can improve your overall health in a very enjoyable way.  Be sure to shop for the organic ones and eat as many of them raw as you can for optimum nutritional benefits and fine taste.

 

 

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