Summer brings the blessing of berries! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, hawthorn berries, blackberries, loganberries, salal berries, salmon berries, thimble berries and wild huckleberries, also called bilberries. They are fun to pick, easy to buy and packed with vitamins (especially A, E, C and folic acid), minerals (iron, calcium and potassium) and antioxidants like quercetin. In nutritional science, the antioxidant power of foods can be measured and assigned an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score – berries are at the top! This is because berries are rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are what impart color to many fruits like grapes, plums and most berries.
They are part of a group of plant molecules called flavanoids (you know the same ones advertised about red wine and dark chocolate), which are highly antioxidant and scavenge free radicals, protecting us from toxins generated internally and those in our environment. UV light from the sun produces many free radicals on our skin, as it does for plants too. Berries produce anthocyanins to protect their skins from UV damage, and eating berries, passes that protection on to us! How wonderful that such delicious fruit protects our eyes and skin from UV damage, while also helping to repair and strengthen blood vessels, reduce inflammation and build our blood.
Berries like bilberries and black currents have flavanoids especially helpful to our eyes and regenerate rhodopsin, our night vision pigment. Berries also affect the bowels! Dried berries, whose tannins are concentrated, can be useful in helping to stop diarrhea, whereas fresh berries, high in water and pectin, while help keep the bowel moving. This is generally true for most fruit – if your bowel tends to be sluggish, soak dried fruit before eating it or stick to fresh fruits.
Finally, berries join melons and cucumbers in their naturally ability to cool our blood during the hot season. They deliver water to our tissues and reduce inflammation, which happens as a result of heat. Eating fresh seasonal berries and melons throughout warmer weather keeps blood vessels from dehydrating, nourishes the heart and cleans the lymph system.
Plus, picking and eating berries is a great way to put a smile on your face (even if it is a purple one!). Enjoy!