How to Eat a Pomegranate
November 4, 2014 – 7:51 pm | No Comment

Some foods are just plain intimidating, and I’ve historically counted whole pomegranates among them.
Unlike other fruits, whose edible flesh lies directly under the skin, a pomegranate’s edible part is actually the hundreds of little juice-filled …

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Pimping Berries

Submitted by on May 20, 2010 – 10:09 am2 Comments
 

As far as I’m concerned, berries are among the best foods one can eat.

During the winter, berries that have traveled from South America are outrageously expensive and lack their characteristic, in-season sweetness.  For this reason, I tend to make do with the frozen variety to accessorize winter pancakes or add color to the occasional smoothie.  But when they’re in season (that’s now!), I buy fresh clamshells of domestically-grown berries almost daily for eating with cereal or in plain yogurt.  And lest you be swayed by the outrageous health claims of exotic, imported so-called “superberries” (like Acai and Goji), I’d like to make a case for why the run-of-the-mill strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries you find locally this time of year are “superfoods” (though I cringe to even use that silly word)  in their own right.

Your Body loves Berries

In addition to being a good source of Vitamin C, heart-healthy folate and cholesterol-reducing soluble fiber, berries contain high levels of beneficial compounds called polyphenols–particularly a type of polyphenol called flavonoids.   The flavonoids responsible for the bluish-purple color in berries, called anthocyanins, are potent antioxidants that work on their own as well as in concert with Vitamin C to exert health benefits throughout the body, including in blood vessels, eyes and on skin-supporting collagen.  Anthocyanins are the same heart-healthy pigments found in red wine, by the way, only some studies suggest that they’re present at even higher concentrations in blueberries than they are in wine.  Great news for the teetotalers among us!

It’s these flavonoids in berries that researchers believe to be behind the favorable impact of berries on reducing blood pressure, reducing blood clotting propensity among platelets and improving “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels in regular berry-eaters compared to non-berry eaters.  (The effective dose in this particular study was 6oz of whole berries (fresh or frozen) or about 4.5oz of berry juice daily… or a combination thereof.)  For people at risk for heart disease and stroke, adding berries to your regular shopping list (in addition to foods like dark chocolate and nuts) can help manage your risk levels downward, naturally.

Other flavonoids in berries have also been linked to a possible role in cancer prevention, particularly ovarian and colon cancer, though the body of research currently lacks prospective, human studies to validate the promising findings from lab research and epidemiological observations.  A respectable amount of observational research does suggest, however, that people with diets higher in berries tend to have lower rates of cancer incidence and death.

I also recommend berries as a great addition to the diet of people with diabetes.  Because of their high fiber content, you can count a relatively larger portion of berries as a single fruit serving (or, the equivalent of 15g of carbohydrate). 3/4 cup of blueberries or blackberries is considered one fruit serving, as is 1 cup of raspberries and 1 1/4 cup of strawberries.  Pair one of those generous berry servings with a cup of plain, Greek-style yogurt and you’ll have an incredibly delicious, low-carbohydrate snack that tickles your sweet and tangy tastebuds equally.

Choose Organic berries, Fresh or Frozen

Sadly, berries are among the most pesticide-heavy of all fruits sold in the US.  (Guess we can’t blame the insects for finding berries so appealing…)  For this reason, spending extra to buy organic berries is something I’d recommend doing if you can afford to do so, particularly if you’re pregnant or feeding the berries to your children.

It’s also worth noting that the anthocyanin content of berries is very diminished in processed berry-derived foods, like baby food or berry-studded breakfast cereals.  If you want the full benefits of berries, stick to fresh or frozen versions.

Lastly, the summer berry bounty lends itself well to eating berries in sweet or savory renditions.  While nothing beats a plain bowl of fresh mixed berries for dessert, here are some ideas for using berries in main dishes as well:

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