As we enter the summer months we also enter the beginning of sweet berry season. From May to August we are graced with amazing berry options that offer many health benefits besides just a yummy snack. There are several local U-pick farms and orchards offering blackberries and blueberries. Whether you are eating them freshly rinsed as a snack, including them in one of your favorite salads, atop your morning breakfast pancake or waffle or just a side, indulging in a healthy fruit smoothie or an afternoon pick-me-up of nonfat Greek yogurt topped with these little morsels of goodness, these berries pack an overwhelming amount of natural health benefits. Our most common of these berries include blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Known mostly for their antioxidant effects on our bodies I wanted to know more detail about these little beauties.

So why the berry? Blackberries, as with the other berries listed, are very low in calories. Often under 100 calories per cup and rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, about 14% of your daily suggested amount. Which, by the way, the recommended amount of fiber for women is at least 25 grams per day and 38 grams per day for men, according to an Institute of Medicine study. Have you ever looked at your daily intake and calculated how much fiber you actually are getting? Maybe you supplement your fiber with a pill or over the counter method, why not try incorporating these berries to your daily intake to decrease the amount of unnatural things you are putting into your system? Blackberries also include a high amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin K along with potassium.

Blueberries, ranked as one of the highest antioxidant foods consumed by Americans. They are one of the widely used fruits to combat cellular damage and in fighting free radicals. Also ranked high with 14% of your daily suggested amount of fiber, blueberries also deliver Vitamin C and Vitamin K along with manganese, which is good for weak bones, anemia, cardiovascular health, several types of cancer and PMS! Studies have also shown that incorporating blueberries into your diet may help with reduction of belly fat.

Strawberries, best eaten in their natural form, rank up at the top with blueberries, as one of the highest consumed antioxidant fruits by Americans. There are many health benefits of the strawberry including cardiovascular health and reduction of inflammation. Strawberries reduce the amount of CRP (C-reactive protein) which signals inflammation to the body and in turn is also associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and patients suffering from Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. The CRP reduction is one of my major concerns and reasons for pursuing a better way of eating.

Finally another favorite in my house is raspberries. This yummy bright red, tart fruit is packed with Vitamin C, Manganese, Fiber (31.9%) and Vitamin K. Commonly sold in nutrition stores as ellagic acid, this is a responsible for a good portion of the antioxidant benefit. Raspberries have a 50% higher antioxidant benefit than before mentioned strawberries. They help protect against Macular Degeneration and some known cancers.

So how can you enjoy some of these yummy antioxidants? Generally, for breakfast my husband and I enjoy fresh strawberries or blueberries with a hard-boiled egg or my asparagus and leek frittata, half of a banana and his favorite, toasted cinnamon raisin bread (not on my bodies’ approved food list) or to get me through the afternoon snack attack, I indulge in a nonfat vanilla greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries, sometimes adding a little homemade (you know what is in it when it is homemade) granola for crunch. Another option, I add berries on top of one of my favorite spring or summer salads consisting of a bed of spring mix or your lettuce of choice, blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries with a little sliced red onion, chopped walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and homemade garlic balsamic vinaigrette.

Learning about what we put into our bodies is sometimes a full-time job it seems. Taking care of bodies helps our bodies, in turn, take better care of us. I admit, I used to be the processed and fast-food queen. Quick fix food options were just so much easier, but rarely healthier. Better foods into your body help your mood, your physical activity and your quality of life. You have to learn what is not good for your body. Everyone is not created equal. Some people can eat carb-rich foods, in moderation, and it never bothers them as it does me. Some people can drink certain things, including my husband’s fascination with “Good Beer”, but I happen to be allergic to hops. Figuring out what your body is trying to tell you or get you to recognize is never easy, but keeping track and writing it down and how it makes you feel seems to be helping me in my journey to feel better every day, and that’ really my realistic goal, to just feel better every day that I possibly can.

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