The next time you are in the grocery store, seek out a selection of colorful berries to add to your shopping cart. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are an easy, delicious way to protect your health. Berries can be found year-round, either fresh or frozen. You can even grow your own and including them in your diet is effortless. They taste great and can be eaten for breakfast in oatmeal or added to a smoothie, tossed into a salad at lunch, or blended into a nutritious cream for dessert after dinner.
These vibrant, health-promoting fruits are rich in fiber and cardio protective antioxidant phytochemicals. Antioxidants, both from the diet and naturally produced by the body, are critical for your health as they protect against oxidation and minimize damage to your cells from radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules with unpaired electrons that can potentially damage genetic material and other cellular components. Accumulated free radical damage over time ages the body and continues to fight chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants slow or stop the reactions of free radicals, neutralizing them.
Berries are Superfoods. Long-term studies measuring berry or flavonoid consumption suggest that all these cardiovascular benefits of berries add up to longevity value, according to the reduced risk of all-cause mortality observed in the studies. Berries and their flavonoids have been found to decrease oxidation of LDL cholesterol which helps prevent the production of plaque, increase blood antioxidant capacity, decrease adhesion of inflammatory cells to vessel walls, and improve blood pressure regulations.
Berries are the fruits with the highest nutrient-to-calorie ratio and an important component of a high-nutrient diet: I consider them to be superfoods. Along with greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, and seeds, berries make up G-BOMBS, which is the acronym you can use to remember the most health- promoting foods on the planet. These are foods you should eat every day, and they should make a significant portion of your diet to promote health and longevity and to fight chronic disease.
One thing is for sure. It is clear these small packages of sweetly tart fruits have an amazing capacity to benefit our health. They are an important component of a high-nutrient diet. So eat some berries daily to provide your body with protection against free radicals, inflammation, heart disease, and cancers.
For more information contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-592-7161.
Lethia Lee is the EFNEP Program Assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center.