For the past week I've been staying with my parents in the Crowsnest Pass Alberta, nestled in the beautiful rocky mountains. Aside from a much needed visit with Mom and Dad, we've kept ourselves busy with fishing, rock climbing, hiking and biking - enjoying the great outdoors! Every little activity we do takes us off the beaten track and into the wild. But no matter where we go, I've noticed the berries are bountiful - raspberries, huckleberries, thimbleberries and Saskatoon berries! Such a great feeling to just pick 'em and eat 'em as we go.
I'm reminded of the powerful nutritional qualities they hold and encourage clients and readers to get on board with berries! Many of us are aware that berries are packed with antioxidant properties. They contain a particular antioxidant called flavonoids (as well as vitamin C). Antioxidants, in general, help to ward off illness and keep you healthy. They may also help to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease and may even slow the aging process. Berries are a good source of dietary fibre that helps with bowel regularity, binds and excretes toxins from the body and can reduce LDL (the bad) cholesterol. Fibre helps us to feel full quicker and for longer which can reduce how much we eat and aid with weight loss goals.
Does one berry stand out as more nutritionally powerful than the others? We've heard so much hype about the goji berry from China and the Brazilian acai berry, but are they truly superior, nutritionally, than other berries? There is very little research comparing antioxidant capacity of many different berries. Another factor to consider is that nutritional quality of a food is very much affected by ripeness when picked, travel time, processing, cooking methods (e.g. steaming blueberries may enhance antioxidant capacity) and these also affect each berry differently. Variety is important. And despite what tabloids and products claim, there really isn't one "superfruit" that will cure us of all disease, it just does not exist.
A local, organic berry would be most ideal (picked right from your mountain or prairie bush)... sigh, we don't always live in that ideal world. This is a stretch for many of us. Continue to choose a whole berry to benefit from the complete package offered by the entire fruit, switch up your berries for nutritional variety and to keep things interesting, and do not be fooled into thinking one type of berry is a "superfruit" that will cure us of all disease (and cause miracle weight loss while we're at it). Berries found right here in Saskatchewan include: sea-buckthorn, bilberry (blueberry), chokecherry, black/red currant, raspberry, Saskatoon berry, strawberry and gooseberry to name a few. Savour the flavours of summer berries... all year long:)