Embracing seasonal eating benefits our health, our neighbors, the environment and the animals all around us. Welcome to our new series called Eat Well Now where we’ll highlight an ingredient you can easily get ahold of in the current season, as well as some recipes on how to enjoy it as a piece to your whole wellness story.
Many researchers prefer to study patterns over individual ingredients when it comes to claiming how one food can benefit and heal us. Just as exercising for 20 minutes a day can’t erase 15 hours of sitting that might be affecting your back or heart health, eating one nutritious ingredient can’t delete dozens that are not. However, most of us would agree from experience that understanding the benefits of specific foods and adding them to our diets greatly supports our well-being, both mentally and physically. Whether or not it’s the kale that helps you heal is irrelevant if you start to feel better and at the same time develop a taste for nutrient-dense, whole foods.
Right now (hello, summer), finding delicious, organic berries is easy, and there are a lot of nutritious reasons why we should be eating them. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at the benefits berries contain and a few delicious ways to enjoy them right now.
Berries have antioxidants.
While most of us know antioxidants are a good thing, we might not understand why. According to Harvard Health, “Antioxidants stabilize harmful by-products of the body’s energy-making machinery.” We need these neutralizing electrons to fight off damage from free radicals our body doesn’t need, both produced from the environment and also through metabolism. Berries, in particular, are very high in flavonoids, the antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and blueberries all make the three-dozen most antioxidant-rich foods list. One great way to start your day with berries in the summer season is to add a large handful to a smoothie or as a side with your eggs, granola, oats or toast.
Eat Well Now Tip #1: Try swapping berries for the jam on top of nut buttered toast.
Berries are rich in fiber.
Fiber is never actually broken down by your digestive tract, and this is why we need it. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and berries have them both. The soluble fiber in berries slows down the absorption of sugar so you feel satisfied longer and your insulin levels stay steady while you digest your food. The insoluble fiber acts like a scrub brush for your colon, carrying with it bacteria and build-up in the intestines on its way out. Studies show that many adults get about half the amount of fiber their body needs. Summer is the perfect time of year to up your fiber intake through berries and see how you feel. Berries are typically higher in fiber than most fruits because of the seeds. Each cup yields four to eight grams of fiber, depending on the berry.
Eat Well Now Tip #2: Make Agatha Achindu’s Greek Kale Banana and Berry Smoothie Bowl for a snack or meal.
Berries are naturally sweet and satisfying.
It doesn’t matter how healthy something is said to be: If you don’t like it or enjoy it, you won’t keep eating it. Summer berries bought locally and in season are at their sweetest peek. According to a third-party survey, Driscoll’s discovered that 85 percent of people found berries to be the happiest fruit. Do you have a happy childhood memory of berries? Most of us do. This connection of memories and taste is what keeps us coming back for more.
While all fructose isn’t created equal, dietician Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, says, “Our brain needs natural sugars in the form of glucose to function properly.” With all the nutrients and vitamins that berries contain, Natalie says there is no need for a healthy person to avoid fruit. Add to this the wisdom of satisfying a craving for something sweet instead of unnecessarily restricting something that ends up backfiring anyways. Simply said, if your intuition is nudging you towards dessert, delighting in a seasonal treat might be just the solution.
Eat Well Now Tip #3: Whip coconut cream and make these berry parfaits.
Whipped Coconut Cream and Berry Parfaits
- 1 can of full-fat coconut milk refrigerated overnight, upside down
- 1 teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or sweetener of your choice
- 2-4 cups of berries washed, stems removed and strawberries cut into fourths
- Mint leaves to garnish.
- Open refrigerated can of coconut milk and drain all liquids.
- Place coconut milk solids in a blender bowl and whip coconut cream and 1 teaspoon of sweetener for 1-2 minutes until creamy and thick. Taste and sweeten more as you wish.
- Layer berries and coconut cream in glass cups or dishes. Top with mint.
- If you are not eating parfaits immediately, refrigerate until ready and let them come to room temperature before serving.