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Dietitians Dish: Reap the benefits of summer berries

By By Susan Sizemore
July 23, 2013 at 2:23 a.m.


I can remember growing up in a family that always had a lot of fruits and vegetables on the table. Eating fruit is one of the foods my mother and father have enjoyed well into their 80s.

Eating your fruits and vegetables is a tried-and-true recommendation for a healthy diet for a long life.

However, growing up, fruit was not as abundant as it is today. Today, our area markets are full of a wide variety of some of the best fruits you can find anywhere in the world. The fruit is fresh, it's abundant, it's fun to eat, and it's good for you and your family.

The summer months are a great opportunity to begin incorporating some seasonal fruits into your daily diet. Seasonal berries taste great because they are freshly harvested and usually have the best price, too.

A recently published World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization report recommends a minimum of five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

To put it simply, remember to have one half of your plate contain fruits and vegetables.

Seasonal fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are in plentiful supply.

All of these berries are known for a myriad of health benefits ranging from being low-calorie to preventing heart disease and stroke. Berries can even help regulate blood pressure and prevent some cancers and diverticulitis. They also help guard against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Strawberries pack a healthy punch, containing 51.5 mg vitamin C per 1/2

Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structure.

Blueberries are high in vitamins C and E. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center achieved a very interesting connection between blueberries and memory.

Blackberries are low in calories, rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and an excellent source of Vitamin C. They also contain adequate amounts of vitamins A and E.

Blackberries are rich in anthocyanins, which gives them their glossy, deep color. The powerful phytonutrients have been shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress.

Raspberries are low in calories; one cup has only 64 calories. The high fiber content will assist in keeping the gastrointestinal tract operating smoothly.

These berries also contain sizable contributions to your daily recommend intake of vitamins B2 and B3, potassium, magnesium, copper and vitamin C.

Developing new habits by incorporating berries into the everyday diet will give you the most health benefits. If you haven't tried all of the different berries, take the summertime to try something new. Fruits stored with high visibility in the home increases consumption. When you buy berries, store them in the refrigerator.

Always wash fresh produce well to prevent foodborne illness. Fruit is a great evening snack, instead of high-calorie snacks. Incorporate the berries into your diet by eating them at breakfast on oatmeal, dry cereals and yogurts.

Prewashing berries and storing in baggies is a great grab-and-go snack that will keep the calories low. Lunch options include adding berries to salads. Preparing berry glazes on lean meats is a creative way to boost fruit consumption.

Numerous recipes are available online to add flavor and nutrition at the evening meal. Fresh strawberries and blackberries with almonds tossed into a spinach salad, make a great addition to an evening meal. Berries of all kinds and other fruits can be eaten at anytime of the day or night, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just snack time.

Based on scientific evidence of numerous studies, adding berries to your weekly grocery list will reap long-term benefits in keeping your body healthy and your family on the way to better health.

Berries are so special, they should be enjoyed all year long. So the next time you're at the family dinner table, break out the berries for part of the meal or dessert. Berries are not only good for you, but they also taste great.

Susan Sizemore is a registered and licensed dietitian at DeTar Health care Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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