Saturday, September 26, 2009

Berries - The Amazing Little Fruits

I call berries amazing little fruits because they are packed with tons of essential vitamins and antioxidants even though they are so small and they taste great! Regardless of the types of berries, these amazing little fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants that give them their bright vibrant colors.

There are so many different types of commercially available berries out in the market today. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries are the common ones. The not so common ones include Acai berries and Goji berries. But they are all equally well known for their amazing health benefits.

My favorites are strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. I don’t really fancy blackberries because they have very very tiny edible little seeds in them that sometimes get stuck in the crevices of my back molars. Otherwise, I think they are sweet tasty little berries too.

Comparing the berries:
In terms of health benefits, the berries are really more or less on a level playing field. No matter which ones you eat, you get tons of different nutrients.

However, on the sweetness scale, I would rank my favorite berries in this order – raspberries, strawberries then blueberries.

In my Crunchy Bumble Berry smoothie, I have equal portions of all the 3 berries. If you rather yours be sweeter, add more raspberries. Otherwise, add more blueberries to counter the sweetness of raspberries. Well you may ask, what’s the role of strawberries in the smoothie then? Strawberries are not only full of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, they are the cheapest of all berries even when they are in season. So using a good portion in your smoothie makes your meal a lot more economical without losing the texture, taste and nutritional value! And that’s a winner. :)

On the antioxidants scale, blueberries are still the clear winner. Antioxidants are a diverse group of vitamins, minerals and chemicals that can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Examples include vitamins A, C and E, phenolic acids, selenium, carotenoids, flavonoids, co-enzyme Q10, melatonin and lycopene. Antioxidants are essential for the proper function of your immune system and keep you looking young because it fights free radicals in your body and slows down the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation ages you just like how it browns an apple or avocado. But we have to breath to live. It’s kind of ironic that the very thing that keeps us alive also ages us. So to counter the unavoidable chemical reaction, ensure a daily dose of antioxidants through the food that you eat. 1 cup of blueberries every day can sure make you look younger. I have people telling me that I look 4 to 5 years younger than my real age…:) good and bad.

Frozen vs. non-frozen
There will always be a debate over whether frozen or fresh berries contain more nutrients. Personally, I buy the idea that frozen berries contains more nutrients because they are almost always frozen immediately after harvest and the refrigeration actually slows down the lost of nutrients during transport. Moreover, refrigeration ensures the availability of berries all year round. And you also want to make sure that you get your berries from a store with a higher turnover of inventory. In fact, you should do this will all other foodstuff that you eat. Buying from a store that has a higher turnover of inventory ensures that you always get the “latest” and freshest batch of fruits and vegetables.

Fresh berries are at their best and available in abundance in summer time. That’s around the June-August period.

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