Updated: Jun 21, 2021
The health benefits of your favourite berries
What’s not to love about berries?
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries - they’re delicate, colourful and captivatingly shiny, like edible gemstones of all shapes and sizes that are delightful to behold. Thrown into pastries and placed decoratively on top of cakes, they truly are the flowers of the culinary world - but they are not just pretty to look at. Aside from their delectable freshness, sweetness and the ever so gentle, satisfying ‘pop’ they create as they burst in your mouth, berries have an array of nutrients and properties that are beneficial to your health.
Berries are known across the board for being high in vitamin C and E, both of which are antioxidants: compounds that once ingested have crucial protective abilities. These compounds help maintain balance within your body, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer by fighting off potentially harmful molecules called free radicals. If their numbers are not carefully controlled, free radicals can cause serious damage to your DNA and certain cell structures. Because of this, it is important to keep up your antioxidant intake, and blueberries are perhaps one of the most delicious and effective ways to supplement your diet.
The rich and enticing navy to the indigo colour of blueberries is caused by high levels of anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that also acts as a pigment. Blueberries have the highest antioxidant content of all berries and are often referred to as a ‘superfood’ because they don’t have to be consumed in large quantities in order to be nutritionally beneficial. And perhaps this is just as well because the high fibre content of berries makes them an especially filling snack, but none quite so much as the raspberry.
Raspberries have more than double the fibre content of blueberries at 8 grams of fibre per cup, as well as a lower calorie content than other berries, making them an ideal addition to any diet designed for weight loss. Aside from keeping your waistline in check, a high fibre diet can help maintain blood sugar levels and cholesterol, leading to fewer health complications. Besides this, raspberries are curiously and amusingly shaped, perfect for putting on the top of your fingers, or stuffing with other berries… am I the only one who finds them so captivating?
When it comes to strengthening your body, blackberries should be your go-to fruit of choice. In addition to vitamins C and E, blackberries are rich in the lesser-known but equally vital vitamin K, which stimulates cell and bone growth. Vitamin K also has defensive abilities, reducing the impact of bruises on your body and ensuring the formation of protective blood clots when necessary. It is important to know that vitamin K producing bacteria are destroyed in your gut whenever you’re on antibiotics, and the uptake of any that remains in your body is temporarily blocked. Vitamin K is also best absorbed in combination with fats and oils that render it easier to digest, making a blueberry and blackberry tart or pastry the perfect way to treat yourself and reintroduce essential nutrients to your body when you’re on the rebound from an illness.
Next on the list is everybody’s darling fruit, a treat that we are all familiar with, and the only berry to become a universally celebrated milkshake flavour of its own – ladies, gentlemen and non-binary individuals, the strawberry. Strawberries are some of the most popular berries on the planet, nutritious and delicious, and favoured by children and adults alike. On a similar level to blueberries, they are rich in anthocyanin – in this instance, however, the brighter the red pigment of the strawberry is, the higher the content of anthocyanins. They are one of the best possible sources of vitamin C, the organic compound which boosts your immune system, prevents iron deficiency and protects the body from scurvy - a serious disease that can cause a decrease in red blood cells and bleed from the skin. This may seem like it’s only useful information if you plan on becoming a pirate or spending your life at sea, but the truth is that while we may think of scurvy as an issue of the past, it still exists in the present. After all, you know what they say… a strawberry a day keeps the scurvy away.
Almost as obscure as scurvy, but not quite, the final berry I’ll mention today is the gooseberry. There are many different types of gooseberries, but the kind we get locally are referred to simply as ‘Cape gooseberries’ since they were originally cultivated in the Cape of Good Hope. Rich in iron and vitamin A, these gooseberries contain a combination of nutrients that can improve your eyesight, ease digestive issues and prevent anaemia. Gooseberries have a complex flavour and while they can prove to be more of an acquired taste for some, they certainly make a great addition to chutneys and jams and add a pleasant amount of contrast when incorporated as a tangy, unconventional garnish on top of ice cream.
Freshly picked berries are a great source of nutrition and nourishment with a great deal of culinary and creative potential. While you may find yourself hard-pressed to think of a hot, savoury dish to throw your berries into, the best possible way to make use of them is actually to leave them raw. As berries are heated and cooked, they begin to release or lose a small part of their nutritional value – In a similar way, once a berry has been picked, it slowly begins to lose its antioxidant properties, but if they are carefully and promptly frozen, their organic composition remains intact for longer.
Put plainly, some of the most effective ways to consume berries are the simplest ones, and this almost always means that there are fewer dishes to clean. All the more reason to throw a delicious mixture of frozen berries in a blender and make yourself a smoothie for a berry beneficial, stress-free day. For more fun facts and berry awesome recipes check out our blog! https://studio-empatia.wixsite.com/berry-lady/blog