Ask an expert: Benefits of berries

Summer is just around the corner and it is time to gear up for enjoying some of the fruits of the season: Berries! We are lucky to live in a place that gives us access to such an abundance of locally grown produce.

Berries are a nutritional power house for vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Most berries contain a good amount of phytochemicals - compounds that may help prevent several types of cancers. Berries are high in soluble fiber which has been shown to help lower cholesterol. For example, one cup of strawberries has as much vitamin C as a glass of orange juice. Strawberries also provide us with calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium. Raspberries and blueberries contain Lutein which is an important phytonutrient for maintaining healthy vision. Also, keep in mind that a cup of most types of berries is only 60 to 80 calories. So there are many good reasons to add berries to your summer diet. There are many ways to incorporate berries into your daily eating.

Come early to mid-June we will see more local strawberries filling the front isles of the produce section at the grocery store. Raspberries can be found in the grocery store and locally from May through November. Blackberries and Blueberries are available in mid-summer to early fall. When fruit is available depends on elevation and each particulars season’s weather, so check with local u-pick farms, or local farmers markets to get a feel for when the fruit will be ripe near you.

Add them to your cereal or yogurt in the morning. Include them in your pancake or waffle mixes, or as part of a muffin recipe. You can put them in a yogurt smoothie, sprinkle them on salads or even have them as a healthy dessert with a dollop of whip cream and walnuts.

When choosing berries, look for ones that are ripe, firm and brightly colored, with no signs of mold or mushy spots. If you are picking berries, pick in a shallow container so you don’t crush them. Rinse the berries and store in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Take advantage of all the local u-pick farms this area has to offer. Berries freeze great and you can then enjoy them all year long.            

Learn more ways to eat healthy. Our registered and licensed dietitians can help you whether your goal is to treat a health condition, lower your risk of disease, manage your weight or eat wisely while maintaining a busy lifestyle.