Have a Berry Healthy Summer!
Summer is the perfect time to celebrate BERRIES! These colorful little fruits are delicious, and are also one of the top sources of phytonutrients. “Phyto” comes from the Greek word for plant, thus phyto-nutrients are nutrients that come from plants. They are found in all plant foods, such as berries, beans, nuts, vegetables, tea, and spices.
Unlike vitamins, there is no specified amount of phytonutrients that we need to eat. However, they are still vital to health! Phytonutrients help our immune systems, aid detoxification, and protect our DNA from damage. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the benefits:
- Phytonutrients can fight cancer in various ways. One way is by acting as antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce oxidation, a chemical process that can damage cells in the body. Too much oxidation is a hallmark of cancer, and research shows that eating a variety of berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries may help fight cancer.
Reduce Heart Disease Risk
- Research shows that eating berries may reduce risk factors associated with heart disease, including reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In one study, phytonutrients found in blueberries reduced blood pressure and improved the flexibility of arteries in women with hypertension.
Protect your Brain
- Studies show that berries may improve brain health. For example, eating blueberries has been shown to improve cognition in older adults, and strawberries may lower inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in the brain.
Try these delicious fresh berry ideas:
- Have a bowl of berries for dessert, topped with whipped cream.
- Top plain yogurt with berries and a bit of honey.
- Berry crisp or berry compote are great options. Try leaving out the sugar (or reducing it by half) to let the flavor of the berries shine.
Additionally, check out local farmer’s markets and U-pick farms for fresh berries, and get more information about Colorado berries and how to preserve them from CSU Extension.
However you decide to enjoy berries, the phytonutrients will help keep you healthy all summer long!
(Thank you to Janie Jacoby, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science Human Nutrition, for assisting with writing this article.)