Berries are bursting with flavor—as well as vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds that can benefit health.
Health Benefits. Berries are good sources of a variety of nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium, as well as microbiome-promoting natural fiber and other bioactive plant compounds like anthocyanins. Berries have been studied in connection with a number of health benefits, including reducing risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and supporting brain health. For example, a systematic review of 23 randomized controlled trials found that berry intake is linked with beneficial effects on markers of CVD risk, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, artery function, and blood sugar. While the evidence for the health effects of berries is not as strong as it is often portrayed, there is no doubt that berries, like other fruits, are a healthful addition to anyone’s dietary intake.
Types of Berries. When we think of berries, popular varieties likely come to mind, such as
strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Beyond those commonly bought at the supermarket, there are many berries unique to certain locations and climates and not as widely known, like elderberries or goji berries. There are more than 25 different types of berries around the world, and more than 400 different species of varying colors, sizes, flavors, and nutrient profiles.
By definition, a berry is a fruit with seeds and flesh produced from a single ovary of a single flower. (It may be interesting to note that, botanically, grapes, tomatoes, kiwis, and bananas are berries, while strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are not!) Though many berries, from blueberries and raspberries to cranberries and acai berries, have been called out as superfoods, the truth is all berries—and all fruits—are good choices.
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a variety of fresh berries. For a change, try less common varieties, like acai, boysenberry, and gogi berries, or explore varieties unique to where you live.
Keeping them Fresh. Berries can spoil relatively quickly, wasting money, nutrients, and environmental resources. Storing them correctly can lengthen their life. Refrigerate unwashed berries in their packages or in a single layer in a spacious container with a loose-fitting, breathable cover. If they begin to overripen, freeze them in a single layer and then transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. They are then ready for smoothies, oatmeal topping, baking, or sauces whenever you want them. Buying your berries frozen is a good option all year long.
Ways to Enjoy. Fresh berries are at their seasonal best right now, so let them shine in all their colorful, delicious, and nutritious glory.
- Make fruit salads and add berries to green salads
- Top hot and cold cereal
- Add them to desserts, like frozen yogurt and custard
- Serve them in a bowl as a side dish, snack, or dessert
- Puree them and freeze them into popsicles
Make a sauce for chicken, fish, or any dish in need of a punch of flavor by pureeing fresh or frozen berries in the blender with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and a little sweetener (depending on their tartness) and cooking them on the stovetop or in a microwave.