Want a delicious and easy way to reduce your risk of a heart attack? Eat blueberries and strawberries at least three times a week.
A study published in the journal Circulation followed 94,000 women for 18 years and found those who ate the most berries cut their chances of a heart attack by one-third. The reason: Blueberries and strawberries (along with blackberries, black currants and eggplant) are rich in compounds called anthocyanins, which widen arteries and reduce inflammation.
Berries are considered to be superfoods because they offer so many health benefits: They’re low in calories, high in fiber and contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can fight cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. Berries also boost memory and keep neurons healthy, as noted in a previous VIV Says post. And, in the latest issue of VIVmag, you can read why they’re considered natural comfort foods.
Although summer is fresh berry season, it’s possible to purchase fresh conventionally grown and organic berries year-round in the U.S. (Wondering if organic is worth the bigger price tag? See my previous post about the study that found organic produce is neither more nutritious or less likely to be contaminated by bacteria than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. That’s not to say it’s without value—many people prefer less pesticide exposure, as well as the taste of organic produce.)
Here’s how to best select, store and serve berries, according to Driscoll’s, the leading supplier of fresh berries in the United States:
SELECT Look for plump, brightly colored berries with no sign of rotting, denting or bruising. Avoid strawberries with wilted caps, seedy tips or white shoulders. Turn the package over to make sure the berries on the bottom look as good as those on top. I also give the package a whiff to make sure they have a nice berry smell; if they don’t, I put the basket back.
STORE Berries last only a few days after purchase (raspberries typically last one to two days, while blueberries are good for up to seven days), so it’s important to store them properly and consume them quickly. Refrigerate them in their original packaging until you’re ready to eat them, and then wash them gently in cold water. If you plan to freeze fresh berries, check out Driscoll’s recommendations, which vary slightly by berry type.
SERVE Berries taste best chilled, and can be eaten by themselves, as part of a fruit salad or in any number of dishes from fruit smoothies to yogurt parfaits, pancakes, salads and even to add some zest to drinking water. Check out the Driscoll’s website for recipes, a 7-day meal plan and contests. Now through March 1, Driscoll’s is giving you a chance to win an elliptical trainer, with runner-up prizes of a year’s worth of berries!
Frozen berries are also a convenient option and can be used straight from the freezer in smoothies, oatmeal, crisps and muffins. For serving ideas, go to allrecipes.com.
What’s your favorite way to eat berries?
Photo credit: Courtesy of Driscoll’s. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.