The fruit that’s “berry” good for you
Summer is the perfect time to go hunting for berries whether you buy your berries at the grocery store, farmers market or visit a u-pick field.
For a fun summer activity, take your family to a “u-pick” farm. Find a local u-pick farm or find one on your summer vacation. Plan ahead and call to assure that the market is still open and that berries are available to pick. There’s nothing better than a fresh picked berry, so if you have younger children ask what the farm policy is on “tasting” the berries while picking. Watch younger children to make sure more berries are going into the pail than in their tummies. After all, would you want to pay your child’s weight in the price of the berries?
Berries are one of the healthiest fruits we can eat. If you ranked all fruits from the healthiest to the least healthy, blueberries would be at the top of the list. One of the nutrition benefits of berries is their seeds. Many people don’t like berries because of the seeds, but seeds are an insoluble fiber which means that the seeds don’t get digested in your intestinal tract. Instead seeds act as a tiny scrub brush moving waste material down the colon and out of your body. These high fiber seeds reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers like colon and breast.
Berries are naturally low in calories and sodium and contain no cholesterol or fat. They are also a source of vitamin C and fiber. Berries are naturally sweet so if you have diabetes you need to watch your portion size. A portion of berries would be about one cup. Your diabetes Michigan State University Extension educator or a registered dietician can help you plan the portion sizes of foods in your food plan.
Berries are a versatile fruit and can be used in many recipes. They can be sprinkled on salads, cereals and yogurt. Try adding berries to pancake or muffin batter. Berries add color and nutrition to fruit smoothies. Freeze berries for a cool treat on a hot summer day. Frozen berries can also replace ice cubes in cool drinks.
When buying berries look for fresh, plump berries that are free of mold. They should have a fragrant aroma. Store berries in their container in the refrigerator. Wash under cool running water just before serving.
Not sure what to do with the berries? Check out the Michigan Fresh fruit fact sheets. MSU Extension also offers a self-paced home food preservation online course, so you can preserve your berries year-round. Whatever your berry preference, buy or pick some berries soon!