Whether you buy them fresh or frozen, pick them off the bush or grow them yourself, berries are one of the best foods to have in the house. They’re tasty and, nutrition-wise, pack a big punch for such a small food.
This week on “Take Care,” health expert Johannah Sakimura explains the many reasons berries should be incorporated into our diet. Sakimura is a registered dietician at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey, and has a master’s degree in nutrition from the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition.
Recently, berries have been showing up at the top of the list for super foods. Sakimura says this is because they contain a lot of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.
“It’s a really delicious way to get your fiber in,” Sakimura said. “Also those dark colors are a signal to you that they’re high in antioxidants.”
The antioxidant anthocyanin is what gives berries their rich red, blue, and purple colors, says Sakimura. Anthocyanin works in many different ways to boost our immune system and can improve our vision, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sakimura says berries are also high in vitamin C, which is another antioxidant that boosts our immune system, and is good for our skin.
“Depending on the variety, they have other vitamins and minerals as well. Strawberries have a lot of foliates, and some have potassium or vitamin K,” Sakimura said. “They do have a lot going for them.”
Out of all berries the blueberry has the highest antioxidant score, but Sakimura says this doesn’t mean you should rule out other berries in your diet.
“I think eating a mixture, and getting in strawberries and raspberries and blackberries as you can…is a better way to go,” Sakimura said.
She advises that eating a half cup serving of berries three to four times a week is a good goal to set.
“You don’t need to be eating them every single day to get these health benefits,” Sakimura said.
Since berries can sometimes be a bit expensive, Sakimura says to refrigerate them when bought fresh for the best results. She also advises to wash them before each serving instead of washing them and then letting them sit. When berries sit damp in the fridge it can cause them to grow mold.
“Once you’ve invested some money in some good healthy fruit, you don’t want to be throwing it in the trash,” Sakimura said.
For the longest lasting results, Sakimura said you can also lay berries out and freeze them, or buy them frozen. This way you can still have berries even when they’re not in season. Cooking with berries can also be an option, such as berry muffins or pancakes. Although some nutritional value will be lost when berries are frozen or cooked, there is still a lot that remains.
“Some of the antioxidants are heat sensitive so you will lose some of that activity,” Sakimura said. “But for instance, the fiber is still completely intact.”
But no matter if you buy berries fresh or frozen, eat them raw or cooked, Sakimura said the most important thing is that they are being incorporated into your diet.