The summer months are berry months. One after another the tiny, brightly coloured red and black berries flood the supermarkets and health stores. Make sure you make the most of them. Berries are one of the simplest ways to boost your health, upping your antioxidants and lowering your levels of inflammation, bowl by delicious bowl.
Fruit in the UK is usually fairly tasteless. Imported from sunnier climes, but refrigerated while still green, it's a far cry from the sun ripened offerings found in the markets of France, Italy and Spain, where you can taste the sweetness of the sunshine in every bite. But British berries hold their own during the short period of time we call summer in England. Don't miss them. Eat them ripe, and never smother them in sugar and cream. Eat them raw whenever possible. Preserve their health giving properties for the winter months. Pick them ripe and then freeze immediately.
If you want to up your antioxidant levels naturally without swallowing endless supplement capsules or pills, then eating blackberries is the way to do it. In some studies, blackberries have been found to have the highest antioxidant levels of all the berries, and they are also rich in vitamin C, manganese and vitamin K. They contain quercitin, which helps decrease the risk of heart problems and helps prevent the development of liver, lung and colon cancer as well as preventing some of the cell mutation that leads to cancer in the first place. They also contain high levels of vitamins C, E and ellagic acid which together fight cancer and other chronic diseases.
Strawberries have been shown in studies to protect against several types of cancer, particularly breast cancer, colon cancer and leukaemia. They contain potassium, folate and fibre and are high in antioxidants and anthocyanins, the pigments in berries which boost the health of your blood vessels and nervous system. They have been shown to reduce macular degeneration, and also contain many of the B vitamins alongside iodine, magnesium and copper. Tests have also shown that eating them regularly decreases inflammation and controls Type 2 diabetes. In consistent amounts, over a period of time, they have been shown to also lower homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease.
It's not all good news though. They are top of the list of the 'Dirty Dozen' most pesticide contaminated foods out there. The perfection of the glowing red berry on your table is usually the result of multiple chemical spraying by the farmers who grow them. The US dept of agriculture found more than 6 different pesticides in each sample they tested in 2014, many of them hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic. Eat organic or don't eat them at all.
Nowadays you seem to be able to buy organic blueberries year round so if it's the only step you take to reboot your health, make them a part of your daily diet. These berries are packed full of anthocyanidins which wipe out the free radicals that damage our cells and speed up ageing. They contain high levels of Vitamin C, alongside manganese (which we all need for healthy bones and brain function) and Vitamin K which also keeps bones strong and wards off heart disease. Tests have found that they reduce the chance of developing cataracts, hemorrhoids, glaucoma and stomach ulcers. They increase night vision and improve overall vision as well as protecting against macular degeneration. Scientific studies have also found that eating blueberries regularly may prevent prostate cancer. They are also said to improve memory. Who knew? A blueberry bowl a day may keep Alzheimer's away!
Quercitin slows the growth of cancer tumours and raspberries have loads of quercitin. They also contain anthocyanins, alongside selenium and phosphorus, and are high in ellagic acid which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties and reduce inflammation. Ellagic acid helps control symptoms of crohns disease. Latest studies show that ellagitannins in raspberries may be able to send signals that encourage the cancer cells to self destruct (apoptosis). In other research studies, raspberries have been shown to prevent liver cancer and affect prostate cancer and cancer of the oesophagus. These remarkable berries also help control blood sugar levels if you suffer from diabetes.
And raspberries just might be just what you want on your latest weight loss kick. Apparently the metabolism in our fat cells can be sped up by the ketones found in raspberries, which decrease weight gain and prevent fat absorption. I don't know about you, but I would willingly swap the cabbage soup diet for the raw raspberry programme!
When I was a child, we had a huge mulberry tree in the garden and all I knew about it was that they were the flavored food of silk worms. No one told me that mulberries are equally good for humans too! They protect against cancer, ageing and boost your brain. Full of anthocyanins, they also contain resveratrol, iron, vitamin C, E and A and zeaxanthin which protects the retina of the eye. B vitamins and Vitamin K alongside potassium, manganese and magnesium found in these berries mean they pack a powerful punch! They come in various shades of pink, but the darker the colour, the sweeter the taste. Mulberry leaf, which is used to make tea, also has impressive health benefits.
Best of all, despite tasting so fabulous, berries are a source of sugar that doesn't spike your blood glucose levels, leaving you with the soaring high and plummeting low of a glycaemic crash. What better incentive to make the most of summer and boost your health with berries?