Berries are low in calories, high in fiber and they contain vitamins and minerals your body needs to function normally. One cup of strawberries contains over 100 milligrams of vitamin C, almost as much as a cup of orange juice. You need vitamin C for immune system function and for strong connective tissue. Strawberries also add a bit of calcium, magnesium, folate and potassium and have only 53 calories.
One cup of blueberries offers a smaller amount of vitamin C, minerals and phytochemicals for only 83 calories. The same amount of cranberries is similar, but with only 44 calories, one cup of raspberries offers vitamin C and potassium for 64 calories.
You can choose other berries with similar nutrition, such as loganberries, currants, gooseberries, lingonberries and bilberries.
Eating a diet rich in blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries may help to reduce your risk of several types of cancers. Blueberries and raspberries also contain lutein, which is important for healthy vision.
Finding and Using Berries
Every grocery store carries a wide variety of fresh, canned and frozen berries. Look in the produce section first. Choose ripe, firm, brightly colored berries with no sign of mold or mushy spots. Fresh berries are easy to eat and they don't require much preparation. Most berries are naturally sweet so you don't need to add sugar or toppings. Just rinse them under water and serve for a nutritious snack or dessert.
Berries can also be found in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Look for berries that are frozen without any added sugar or syrup. Frozen berries aren't as firm as freshly picked berries (after they thaw anyway), but they are still delicious and nutritious.
Dried berries are sold in the snack aisle and the baking ingredient section. They look like raisins and can be used in recipes that call for raisins.
Most berries are sweet enough to be eaten just as they are. However, here are some additional ideas:
- Top a bowl of berries with a dollop of light-whipped topping and a sprinkling of chopped pecans or walnuts.
- Add strawberry slices to a bowl of whole grain cereal.
- Sprinkle blueberries on a salad.
- Stir fresh raspberries into Greek yogurt.
- Combine frozen berries with bananas and low-fat milk to make a smoothie.
- Add dried berries to warm oatmeal.
Some berries are too tart for most people to enjoy (especially cranberries and lingonberries). Fresh cranberries can be used in recipes, although you'll probably have to add some sugar. Dried cranberries sold as snacks have been sweetened. Cranberry juice can also be combined with apple or grape juice to add sweetness, but cranberry juice cocktail is usually cranberry juice mixed with water and high fructose corn syrup.
Healthful Berry Recipes
Seeram NP. "Berry fruits for cancer prevention: current status and future prospects." J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 13;56(3):630-5.