July is the month when I overestimate the size of my refrigerator and freezer and buy way too much fruit. Any which way I turn I see summer berries and they are just too delicious to pass up. Dark red cherries, boysenberries, raspberries, red currants and just spotted the other day – wild blueberries from the forest (see below) – I just can’t say no!
Berries are full of polyphenols – “Poly what?” you may be asking… Polyphenols are utilized by the body in different ways and are turned into a type of antioxidant when they are broken down. Foods like dark chocolate, coffee, green tea, unfiltered olive oil all have polyphenol content (Yes, coffee is also a good source of these types of antioxidants – fire up that espresso maker!)
There are some basic groups of polyphenols – phenolic acids (coffee), flavonoids (herbs, tea), resveratrol (wine), curcumin (kurkuma/turmeric), and lignans (flaxseed).
Most berries have either phenolic acids or flavonoids present and sometimes both. The dark blue/purple berries have an abundance of anthocyanins which are anti-inflammatory in nature and can support and strengthen the immune system. Red berries are rich in phenolic acids are also anti-inflammatory and can act with an anti-microbialeffect in the body.
Not only are berries high in these helpful antioxidants, they are also little powerhouse sources of necessary vitamins and minerals that are easily added into our daily diet. Here are just a few highlights about them:
vitamins A, E, K: fat-soluble vitamins that support a healthy immune system & reduce inflammation
folate: supports the cardiovascular system and helps to incorporate amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in the body
vitamin C: give the body’s immune system a boost, also its own antioxidant and must be obtained in food
potassium: plays a role in cell formation, is one of the top three electrolytes in our body and is needed to build muscle.
magnesium: another electrolyte, is needed by the body in large amounts for many different functions, and supports muscle relaxation.
Berries can be added to just about anything on your daily menu – see the recipe below for some other tasty ways to incorporate them into your diet.
As always when buying summer fruit it’s best to get your berries straight from the farmer’s market where you can talk to the farmer about how they cultivated their berries and if there have been any pesticides used. According to the EWG “dirty dozen” list, strawberries and cherries should most certainly be bought organic.
The list below outlines the top 10 fruits which have the highest polyphenol content per 100g. Another site ranked the highest polyphenol content per serving which lists the black elderberry as the berry containing the most polyphenols per serving followed by the black chokecherry and the blackcurrant. Wild blueberries made it to 7th on the list.
Any way you look at it berries are a healthy addition to any day of the week and around here, at this time of year, I am getting plenty. What’s your favorite summer berry?
**For those of you in the winter season remember frozen berries also provide an abundance of anthocyanins and phenolic acids.
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