Thumbs Up for Berries

by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting

Berries are one of the most versatile fruits comprising dozens of varieties from the ever-popular strawberry to gooseberry to acai berries. They grow in the wild, in your backyard or even in “towers” you can assemble in your own living room.

Besides coming in different shapes, colors and flavors, berries bring another dimension of texture and nutritional value to meals, snacks, smoothies and desserts.

Many berries are classified as “superfoods,” because they offer a lot of nutritional power packed into relatively small portions. Berries are some of the healthiest foods we can eat, and they are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.

Health benefits

As they are rich in antioxidants, berries are known for many of their health-boosting properties such as preventing cell damage from free radicals (oxidative stress) and reducing the risk of certain diseases such as macular degeneration. They also may help prevent and treat cataracts. In addition, certain berries are high in vitamin C, which also supports healthy immune function.

Blood sugar control

Berries are great alternatives to snacks with added sugar. Another way berries help control blood sugar is by improving the body’s response to the hormone insulin, which helps our cells use the sugar in our blood. As a result, less sugar builds up in our blood, which may also help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

When blood sugar levels remain too high for a long time, it can harm our heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes and more.

Heart health

Berries are high in soluble fiber, which can bind with harmful cholesterol as it passes through your intestines, carrying it out as waste, lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. The antioxidants in berries may also help to reduce our risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Weight management

Berries are good sources of fiber. Eating plenty of fiber helps slow down digestion and makes us feel fuller for longer so we eat fewer calories and may lose more weight.

Practical tips:

  • Buy berries in season for better value.
  • Enjoy sampling various berries.
  • Try to eat a few portions of berries a week.
  • Add berries to your salads.
  • Use berries as healthy breakfast topping.
  • Stock up by buying frozen berries.