Berry-Licious Tips and Recipes

What's not to love about delicious and nutritious raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries?

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

I love almost all types of fruit, but can I tell you what my absolute favorites are? Strawberries and raspberries and blackberries! My favorite jam? Triple-berry jam (featuring the aforementioned berries). Favorite pie? You guessed it --berry! One of the things that gets me through winter is frozen berries. And to me, summer hasn't truly begun until I've gone to the farmers' market in my town and made a batch of triple-berry jam.

Berries are tops to me not only because they have such a uniquely sweet taste and come in such beautiful shades of red, blue, and purple. They are also absolutely and utterly good for you. A serving of berries comes with a nice dose of fiber and vitamin C (along with assorted other vitamins and minerals). Here's the nutritional profile of the four most common berries:

Berry Nutritious!

1 cup: Calories Fiber Vit. C
Folic Acid
Vit. B6
Vit. B2
50 3.8 g 125% 7% 8% 10% 2% 5%
Raspberries* 60 8.4 g 41% 8% 5% 10% 3% 7%
Blackberries 75 7.6 g 40% 12% 6% 5% 5% 9%
Blueberries** 81 3.9 g 25% 2% 4% 7% 1% 2%

* also 8% DV of B3
**also 6% DV of B1

Berries also deliver an impressive lineup of phytochemicals. The phytochemicals found in blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries have powerful antioxidant duties in the body and help protect us against cancer in several different ways.

According to a Dutch study lead by Jules Beekwilder, PhD, raspberries may have almost 50% more antioxidant activity than strawberries, three times the antioxidant activity of kiwis, and 10 times the antioxidant activity of tomatoes. To what do they owe this to? The study suggests that while vitamin C accounts for about 20% of raspberries' total antioxidant capacity, the red-colored anthocyanins (phytochemicals) account for 25%. But the biggest contribution (more than 50%) comes from phytochemicals called ellagitannins, Beekwilder says.

"These special tannins usually occur in leaves and bark, but in the raspberry they also end up in the edible parts -- the fruit," says Beekwilder. "Besides being antioxidants, these compounds also work against intestinal infections like salmonella."

At the Market

Ready to head to the market? Here are four basic tips on buying and storing berries:

  • Avoid buying bruised or oozing berries. Turn the see-through baskets over to check the berries on the bottom.
  • Look for firm, plump, full-colored berries.
  • When you bring them home, cover them and refrigerate them until ready to serve.
  • Use them quickly. If they're perfectly ripe the day you buy them, they can become soft and moldy within a couple of days. The exception to this rule is blueberries, which can be stored up to about five days.
11 Easy Ways to Get More Berries
  1. Add fresh, frozen, or dried berries to hot or cold cereals.
  2. Use in or on top of waffles and pancakes to add color, flavor, and nutrition.
  3. Add to green salads for color and sweetness. Berries work well with a vinaigrette dressing.
  4. Toss them into a fruit salad. The red and blue colors make a splash in the sea of yellow, white, and green.
  5. Mix into yogurt, or add as topping to light vanilla ice cream.
  6. Whip them into a smoothie. Berries complement traditional smoothie ingredients such as bananas, nonfat frozen yogurt, and fruit juice.
  7. Stir them into your favorite muffin batter. Oatmeal muffins become Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins. Corn muffins become Raspberry Corn Muffins. Lemon Muffins become Lemon Strawberry Muffins. You get the picture.
  8. Feature them in a coffee cake, or serve your coffee cake with a fresh berry topping.
  9. Use them to make sauces that dress up desserts like angel food cake or chocolate truffle cake, or complement grilled meat, fish, or poultry.
  10. Use them as a colorful garnish for your plate at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  11. Celebrate summer with a traditional berry dessert like strawberry shortcake, or berry cobbler, grunt, or crisp.

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