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.

Very Berry Recipes

These four recipes will put a taste of spring in your mouth!

Light & Luscious Berry Grunt

3/4 cup granulated sugar (divided use)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (divided use)
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
2 tablespoons less-fat margarine (8 grams fat per tablespoon), melted in microwave
4 cups raspberries
3 cups blackberries
2 tablespoons berry liqueur (like Chambord), water can be substituted
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing flour
1/4 cup Splenda (optional)

  • Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl and set aside. Add flours, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, pinch of salt, and ginger to a medium bowl; blend well with whisk. Add melted margarine and fat-free half-and-half together in 1-cup measure and pour into flour mixture. Stir together with fork or spoon and set aside.
  • Add raspberries, blackberries, berry liqueur, lemon juice, quick-mixing flour, remaining sugar and Splenda (if desired), pinch of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in large bowl and gently toss together. Add berry mixture to a large, straight-sided skillet. Cover skillet and bring mixture to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  • Drop large dollops of batter (a heaping tablespoon each) evenly on top of the gently boiling berry mixture. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dollops of batter. Cover skillet again and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until biscuits/dumplings are cooked through and the juices are bubbling, about 15 minutes.
  • Top each serving with a cookie-size scoop of light vanilla ice-cream, if desired.
Yield: about 8 servings

Per serving: 209 calories, 3 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat, .4 g saturated fat, .4 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 71 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 12%.

Berry Easy Topping

A creamy, flavorful topping that works for pound cake, shortcake, coffee cake, waffles, or pancakes.

1 cup raspberries, frozen or fresh (blackberries can also be used)
1 cup light or fat-free Cool Whip, thawed in refrigerator
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch cinnamon (add more to taste)

  • Add all ingredients to a medium serving bowl and stir well with spoon.
  • Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Will keep for about 8 hours; after that, the moisture inside the berries may leak into the mixture.
Yield: 2 cups of topping or 4 servings (1/2-cup each)

Per serving: 65 calories, 0.3 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 2.7 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.2 g fiber, 0 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 9%.M

Strawberry-Orange Spread

8-ounce block light cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Splenda (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup diced strawberries
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (or finely chopped orange peel)

  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to whip together and blend until a spread forms. Scrape down sides of processor bowl and break up any chunks of cream cheese after about 5 seconds.
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator until needed. Serve within 24 hours because the moisture in the berries may leak into the mixture over time.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups spread, or about 5 servings (1/4 cup each)

Per Serving: 129 calories, 5 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g fiber, 213 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 53%.

Fresh Raspberry Sauce

This sauce works as a topping or complement to all sorts of dishes, from pancakes and waffles at breakfast to light ice cream or pound cake at night.

2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Splenda
2 tablespoons berry liqueur (such as Chambord)
2 tablespoons orange juice

  • Combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree or pulse until well-blended.
  • Serve as is if you don't mind seeds, or strain through a nonreactive sieve to remove seeds.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups (5 servings of 1/4 cup each)

Per serving: 60 calories, .5 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, .3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, .6 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 5%.

SOURCES: BioFactors 2005, vol 23: pp 197-205. Functional Foods part I: Legumes, Grains, Fruits & Vegetables, 2005, by Carol Ann Brannon, MS, RD, LD. Jules Beekwilder, PhD, researcher, Plant Research International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Published May 11, 2006.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own


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