Ag 101: Have a Very Berry New Year

BerriesImagine a ripe red strawberry with a dab of whip cream on top or a bowl of deep purple/blue blueberries drizzled with sugar…  Any fresh berries sounds pretty appetizing to me.  Though berries aren’t in season this time of year many berries are still grown in greenhouses or imported from other countries and available in stores. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are referred to as powerful superfoods, because they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.  There is a lot more to berries than just good taste.  Let’s check out berry information for our health benefits as well as just for the pure enjoyment.  The benefits of consuming berries are infinite!

We all seem to reach for the bright red strawberry because it tastes better than the pink ones – and the darker blackberry or blueberry for the same reason.  But that beautiful color has another purpose.  The pigment that gives the color is also called anthocyanins.  That is the antioxidant power of the fruit.  It has the power to prevent cell damage.  The anthocyanins are attributed with decreasing risks of heart disease and cancer, slowing growth of some tumors, and decreasing blood clotting.  Berries are rich in vitamin C, fiber and potassium and best of all they’re low in calories.

Blueberries have health benefits for the nervous system and brain.  New studies show evidence that blueberries can improve memory and slow down or postpone the onset of cognitive problems associated with aging.  The eyes also receive benefits from eating fresh blueberries. Foods rich in the anthocyanin antioxidant help protect the eyes from potential damage fromBlueberrry sunlight. Berries in general also have a low glycemic index (GI), which is a common way to identify the impact of food on blood sugar levels.  The top producing blueberry state is Michigan because of its sandy well-draining soil. It’s amazing how blueberries get from farm to table.

Blackberries are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Similar to the blueberry, blackberries show benefits from the antioxidant compounds that help against cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological disease.  Blackberries are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C which helps develop resistance against infection. There is generous amounts of potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium and these Blackberryminerals help in bone metabolism and the production of white and red blood cells. A blackberry fun fact is that they are a great treatment for nausea.  The top blackberry producing state is Oregon with its temperate costal climate.

An amazing strawberry fact is that strawberries are the only fruit that have their seeds on the outside? Strawberries contain a natural anti-inflammatory called flavonoid quercetin.  Strawberries also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Due to the high content of potassium, they are recommended for those with high blood pressure to help lower the sodium levels in the body.  Strawberries are high in water content and fiber which helps hydrate and minimizes constipation.  Because of the anti-inflammatory effects, eating strawberries may help with allergy type symptoms of runny nose, watery eyes, and hives. Another couple of fun facts are that the average U.S. resident eats 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries a year and kids between ages 7 -9 say that it’s their favorite fruit!  Strawberries are called a special fruit.

Raspberries offer many health benefits such helping to prevent cancer and they contain high levels of vitamins and minerals which help maintain healthy body function.  Raspberries are high in potassium for helping with healthy blood pressures and high in calcium which is needed for bone growth and development.  Raspberries also are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect against macular degeneration – an eye disease that can cause loss of vision. It is rasbrecommended that raspberries should be grown with a trellis, because it improves fruit quality and makes harvesting easier. The top producing red raspberry state is Washington State with rich volcanic soil.

It is great learning about fresh fruits and the impact eating well can have to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  New studies say that we can freeze berries without doing damage to the anthocyanin antioxidant value.  This is great news for those who want to enjoy seasonal berries all year long.



One thought on “Ag 101: Have a Very Berry New Year

  1. Pingback: What’s Cooking: Strawberry Banana Smoothies | Iowa Agriculture Literacy

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