Basic Berry NutritionBerries are not only sources of concentrated flavor, but little packets of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For example, a cup of sliced strawberries contains a whole day's requirement for vitamin C. A cup of blackberries contain a day's worth of manganese, while the same amount of raspberries supplies a third of our daily niacin needs. Blueberries and strawberries are even surprisingly good sources of vitamin E. And they all contain between 4 and 9 grams of fiber per cup.
Why are Berries So Good for Us?The seeds of berries are mainly spread by birds and other animals; the bright colors of the berries help attract those seed-distributors. The skins of berries have to be thin enough so that they are easily eaten, but at the same time not vulnerable to pests and diseases. The chemicals which cause the color and protect the plant also turn out to be good for us.
Health BenefitsMany of these phytonutrients (such as anthocyanins, quercetin, and ellagic acid) have an antioxidant effect: They counter the natural oxidation in the body that contributes to aging of the tissues and many degenerative illnesses such as cancer, dementia, and damage to the arteries. One study of blueberries in the diet even showed improved memory of middle-aged rats. In fact, it's hard to think of a body part that isn't positively affected by these nutrients. Blueberries are especially high in these chemicals, perhaps the highest of all fruits.
Links to more information about individual berries, with links to recipes:
Berry Selection and StorageBerries tend to spoil quickly, especially if they're broken or stored in damp conditions. Before buying, check them carefully for mold or broken berries. Also, don't rinse your berries until you're ready to eat them. If you can't eat them within a day or two, either freeze them or cook into a sauce (add a pinch of salt, and sweetener to taste) which can be refrigerated for up to a week (or frozen). Freezing and cooking do not damage most of the phytochemicals in the fruit, although cooking lowers the Vitamin C content.
Note on pesticides: Strawberries in particular, and to a lesser extent raspberries, tend to have more pesticides than other fruits and vegetables, unless they are organic. Some feel that it's worth seeking out organic produce, especially for the so-called "dirty dozen" fruits and vegetables.
- Combine with cottage cheese, plain yogurt, or ricotta cheese for a high-protein snack, breakfast, or dessert. Add flax seed for extra nutrition and fiber.
- Add strawberries to a green salad, or blend into into a salad dressing
- Have berries and cream for dessert with regular cream or homemade whipped cream.
- Make a smoothie combining many varieties of frozen berries, with or without yogurt. Sweeten to taste. This mixture can also be frozen into delicious fruit pops.
- Add berries to your favorite protein shake.
- Make a berry syrup for pancakes by boiling with a little sweetener.
- Put dried berries into a low-carb trail mix (but watch for sugar!)
- Make an easy freezer jam.
More Low-Carb Recipes with Berries
- Strawberry Topping (good on Low-Carb Cheesecake)
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Fresh Berry Pie
- Peach Melba Parfait
- Raspberry Chiffon Squares
- Raspberry Lemon Mousse
- Raspberry Fool
- Raspberry Vanilla Cream (dessert)
- Sugar-Free Cranberry Chutney
Strawberry Information and Recipes from About.com's Busy Cooks Guide