Health Benefits of Raspberries: Vascular Improvement & Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

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A new study, conducted by researchers at Kings College London, in collaboration with German and Spanish scientists, shows that consuming raspberries may cut the risk of heart disease by 15 percent by improving circulation and blood-vessel health.

 

For the study, ten healthy males between 18 and 35 years old were given drinks made with made with frozen raspberries, and containing either 201 or 403 mg of total polyphenols, including ellagitannins, a potent phytochemical that has also been linked to reduced risk of cancer. Blood and urine tests were administered 2 hours and 24 hours after consuming the drink.

 

The tests were used to measure flow-mediated dilation (FMD), or the natural widening of the arteries that occurs as blood flow increases. FMD is an indicator of the health of the endothelial lining of blood vessels and is an established biomarker of cardiovascular disease risk. Results showed a significant increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD) at the 2-hour, which was maintained the next day.

 

Findings from the study, which was funded by the National Processed Raspberry Council, were published in the August 2018 issue of the scientific journal The Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, the lead researcher on the study, said, “Although more studies are needed to confirm our findings, we are very excited about the potential role of raspberries and ellagitannins in cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Blueberry Cocktail Recipes to Kick Off Summer with a Sweet Surprise

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Here in New York, summer has arrived with a bang. To beat the heat—and get ourselves ready for the bounty of blueberries to come over the next several weeks—we’ve rounded up our favorite blueberry cocktail recipes. From minty and mojito-inspired to punchy with whiskey, plus a fizzy shrub mixture that would be at home in any vintage speakeasy, these blueberry cocktails are perfect for grown-up barbecues, dinner parties, and romantic meals for two all summer long.

Click each cocktail name to get the recipe.

 

Mint-Infused Blueberry Cocktail

 Image via If You Give a Blonde Kitchen

Image via If You Give a Blonde Kitchen

From the fresh, muddled blueberries to the zing of lime and mint, this vodka-based update of the beloved mojito is a fun take on summer cocktails.

 

Blueberry Whiskey Buck

 Image via Vintage Kitty

Image via Vintage Kitty

We never would have paired blueberries with whiskey, but the berries’ inherent sweetness perks up the earthy tang of whiskey and ginger beer. This is one of the most creative blueberry cocktails we’ve tried!

 

Blueberry Rum Smash

 Image via The Kitchn

Image via The Kitchn

Another mojito-inspired recipe, this cocktail relies on spicy rum and bubbly ginger ale for its full, layered flavor.

 

Blueberry Margarita

 Image via Food and Wine

Image via Food and Wine

What would summer be without margaritas? The old favorite gets a new twist with the one-two punch of sweet blueberries and pungent orange bitters.

 

Carolina Blues Blueberry Cocktail

 Image via Saveur

Image via Saveur

Old timey drinking vinegars, otherwise known as shrubs, are having a moment, and we couldn’t be happier. This vintage-inspired cocktail combines a spicy blueberry shrub mixed with prosecco and gin.

Myths and Truths about Strawberries

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Wondering how to tell truth from fiction when it comes to strawberries? Let’s look at some of the common myths about strawberries—and the real truth behind them.

Myth: Strawberries are best picked just before ripening, because they’ll last longer and ripen upon standing.

Truth: Strawberries are nonclimacteric fruit; their tissues won’t continue the metabolic process of ripening after harvest. Consequently, underripe berries also lack the nutritional value and flavor of fully ripe berries. Because of this, always pick berries at the height of ripeness. Your local farm store already knows this, and will only harvest fully ripe berries. If you prefer to pick your own, look for plump, firm (but not hard) fruits with a uniform bright-red color. Strawberries that have green or white spots are underripe; those with shriveled, very dark skin or a “collapsed” look are overripe.  

 

Myth: The bigger the berry, the more flavorful.

Truth: When it comes to berries, size doesn’t indicate taste or juiciness. In fact, large berries are often less flavorful than smaller ones!

 

Myth: Berries should be the same size.

Truth: Grocery store strawberries are typically big and uniform in size, but this is purely a marketing tactic. Those berries have been bred for high volume and transportation hardiness, and lack both the flavor and nutritional content of locally grown berries of varying shapes and sizes. So don’t worry if your farm-store pint (or quart!) contains both small and large berries, and even or alien-looking berries with funny, irregular shapes. They taste even better than the “perfect” large-scale-grown berries!

 

Myth: Strawberries contain toxic pesticides.

Truth: Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of “dirty” fruits and vegetables that consumers are supposed to avoid because they contain pesticide residues. For the third year in a row, strawberries were ranked number one on the list (also on the list: healthful foods like spinach and apples). But the EWG list is misleading from both a scientific and a social standpoint.

The EWG’s approach to ranking has not been supported by any scientific organization, undergone peer review, or been published in a scientific journal. It also ignores the facts that plants produce natural pesticides to combat pests, and these residues exceed human-applied pesticides by ten-thousandfold. Pesticide residues in plants are generally quite low; only at very high levels are they considered toxic to the point of demonstrating negative effects on the human body. And pesticide applications vary greatly according to climate—for instance, berry growers in wet climates such as Florida typically need to apply pesticides more frequently than growers in New York, yet the EWG list only considers averages that may be skewed by location.

 

Myth: Strawberries don’t taste as good cold and shouldn’t be refrigerated.

Truth: While it’s true that the strawberry’s flavor comes out best when it’s at room temperature, cold storage is necessary for preserving fresh berries. Once you get them home from the farm store, place them in the fridge until just before you’re ready to eat them. Then either allow them to come to room temperature, or rinse them with warm water.

Also, if the container your strawberries came in is small and the berries are packed tightly together, transfer them into a larger container. More room between berries will slow down the natural spoilage that occurs as fruits pass their prime.

 

Myth: It’s a good idea to wash all your berries all at once, then store them for later.

Truth: Because moisture promotes the growth of mold, only wash the quantity of berries you need at the moment, and store the remainder unwashed.

 

Myth: Strawberries have vitamin C, but they don’t have many other healthful attributes.

Truth: Strawberries—and all berries—are nutritional powerhouses! In addition to a whopping 152 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C, strawberries also contain fiber and antioxidant compounds that are known to reduce the effects of oxidative stress caused by aging and a variety of diseases. These superfoods are also fat- and cholesterol-free, and low in calories. Want to learn more about the many health benefits of berries? Read on. 

 

Myth: Strawberries have too much sugar to be healthy.

Truth: Carbohydrates, in the form of naturally occurring sugars, are an important part of a healthy diet and a primary source of energy for humans. A cup of strawberries has about 11 grams of carbohydrates, just 4 percent of your daily allowance. Strawberries are also considered low-glycemic-index foods, so they have little effect on your blood glucose levels or insulin response, unlike foods that contain refined sugars.

If you have diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome, talk to your doctor about how you can incorporate strawberries into your diet in quantities that won’t negatively affect those conditions. Otherwise, strawberries are an excellent source of a variety of nutrients and can be a fantastic addition to a healthful, disease-prevention diet.

6 Strawberry Recipes You’ll Love for Spring & Summer

For us, spring hasn’t truly arrived until the first crop of strawberries is here. Since they’re almost here, we rounded up six fantastic appetizer, entrée, and dessert recipes for using your favorite fruit from now into summer.

 

Breakfast Flatbread with Ricotta and Strawberry-Basil Jam

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A breakfast version of pizza that combines the crunch of warm flatbread with the mild savoriness of ricotta and the floral-sweet flavor of a strawberry jam punched up with basil? Yes, please.

 

Blue Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

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Strawberries are a natural counterpoint to tangy cheeses. This simple recipe, with the extra zing of balsamic vinegar, makes an easy yet unexpected party hors d’ouevre. Save the scooped-out strawberry centers for making compotes, smoothies, or strawberry ice cubes.

 

Citrus Steak Salad

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With its mix of oranges and strawberries, this take on sirloin is light, bright, and filling, and looks impressive, too.

 

Strawberry Horchata

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A twist on the classic Latin rice-based milk drink, this berry version of horchata will satisfy the sweetest of palates. Make it vegan—and a bit more grown up—by substituting half of the condensed milk with coconut milk and half with a cream liqueur, such as Amarula or Guappa.

 

Chocolate Strawberry Slump (Cobbler)

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Perfect for when you need a dessert that looks and tastes impressive but doesn’t take sophisticated kitchen skills—or a lot of time—to put together.

 

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Fudge

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Why let peanut butter, chocolate, or maple have all the fun? Strawberries make a delicious flavor and texture complement to this fudge, which is made entirely in the microwave.

 

 

Not Just for Dessert: How to Use Berries in Savory Recipes

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Berries are a no-brainer in dessert, as well as in dozens of waffle, pancake, muffin, and breakfast-cake recipes. But why stop there, when you can enjoy the phenomenal taste and supernutritious benefits of berries with every meal? Here’s a little inspiration for using strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries in some unexpected savory meals.

Serve berries in your next:

Raw salad. All berries, but especially strawberries and blueberries, are delicious with spinach, kale, mache, or mesclun mixes, where their sweetness takes the bite out of greens. Add a handful of nuts, like almonds or walnuts, for contrasting textures and extra nutritional punch.

Bruschetta. Fresh or as a jam, berries work beautifully with a drizzle of fine olive oil.

Grilled cheese. Make a berry jam or conserves—either from a single berry or mixed berries—and spread it over your bread before you grill cheese. We haven’t met a cheese yet that doesn’t taste amazing when paired with berries, so experiment with everything from sharp, tangy goat cheeses or aged hard cheeses like Parmesan or Asiago, to milder cheeses like Swiss, Gruyere, and cheddar.

Baked Brie. We weren’t kidding when we said berries go with any cheese! This dish never fails to please at dinner parties, but it couldn’t be easier to make. Simply stew the berries on the stovetop first to create a jammy consistency, the spoon it over freshly baked Brie.

Pizza. You could easily make a sweet—and crowd-pleasing—pizza with berries and a young goat cheese. But did you know that blackberries and raspberries provide a natural “lift” to earthier flavors like blue cheese and arugula? Or that strawberries and blueberries are a dream team when paired with spinach, mozzarella, and a dash of balsamic vinegar?

Sauce for proteins. This is one of our favorite—and probably the most underused—way to serve berries in a savory recipe. Stew them with a squeeze or two of agave or honey, plus a little cornstarch (if needed for thickening), then pour the sauce over roasted or grilled pork, beef, lamb, or tempeh. Serve with healthy grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Dipping sauce. Similar to the above, a stewed sauce of raspberries or strawberries makes a deliciously unexpected dip for fried chicken (or vegan “chicken”).

Spicy barbecue sauce. If you love a kick-in-the-pants barbecue sauce, try mixing berries along with chile peppers, like habanero, jalapeno, and chipotle, while cooking. Let the mixture sit for several hours before using, to deepen the flavors.

Ceviche. While berries may not seem like the most natural pairing with fish, they’re delightful in this traditional Latino dish, where citrus brings out their inherent brightness.

Tropical salsa. Mix the berries with mango, pineapple, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno, a healthy squeeze of lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Then serve over crispy fried tilapia or sea bass in fish tacos, or over shredded beef or pork nachos.

Mixed-berry Thanksgiving sauce. Tired of the same-old cranberry sauce? Reinvent it with a mixture of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Your turkey—and your tastebuds—will thank you!

Cocktails. Sure, you’ve had berries in sweet spiked lemonades and iced teas. But have you tried them with stronger spirits? Muddle the berries with cachaça for an update on the Brazilian classic caipirinha, or blend with rum and mint for an unforgettable take on the mojito.

 

 

Berries Have Even More Health Benefits!

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You probably already knew that berries are among the healthiest foods on the planet, and can contribute to everything from a healthy immune system to better eyesight and metabolic regulation. But did you know that scientists have recently discovered a range of new health benefits of berry consumption?

At the 2017 Berry Health Benefits Symposium, experts presented their findings. The new research demonstrates that a variety of chemical compounds in berries—including polyphenols, metabolites, and flavonoids—show promise in decreasing the effects of or in treating:

  • Arthritis, especially the reduction of pain and inflammation
  • Allergic asthma airway inflammation
  • Oxidative stress, inflammation, and other neural alterations cause by a high-fat diet, which can contribute to brain impairments in learning and memory
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Age-related declines in psychomotor function, including balance, muscle strength, and coordination
  • High blood pressure and arterial stiffness, especially in postmenopausal women
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome, especially its effects on the immune system and weight gain
  • Hyperglycemia

Simply eating a handful of berries won’t cure disease. However, as these and other studies have shown, concentrated doses of the health-giving compounds of berries can have a significant effect on many diseases. This means, researchers believe, that incorporating additional and larger servings of berries into a healthy, balanced daily diet can help prevent certain diseases from developing in the first place, or from getting worse.

Visit our recipes (both savory and sweet) for ideas on how you can make berries a regular—and tasty!—part of your overall nutrition plan, and reap the health benefits.

Winter Doldrums Got You Down? Give Yourself a Berry Boost!

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As the winter—with its cold, short days and long, dark nights—marches on, it’s not uncommon to start feeling low-energy, fatigued, or even down in the dumps. These feelings, plus our tendency to soothe ourselves with comfort foods during the winter months, can create stress that increases the number of free radicals in our bodies. An excess of free radicals can lead to a host of diseases and ailments, among them depression . . . and then the cycle perpetuates itself. But even though we still have a couple of months to go before we can start enjoying longer days and sunshine, we do have a potent weapon against the winter doldrums: berries.

Various studies have shown that the antioxidants in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries can significantly decrease the incidence of depression. Blueberries can even combat genetic and biochemical tendencies toward the depression and suicidal feelings that are often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And because berries help prevent the release of cortisol, the well-known “stress hormone,” experts consider them one of the top foods for boosting mood and energy and improving concentration.

Start the day off on a positive note with a cup of green tea (another great stress reducer), followed by a berry-rich breakfast. If you love hearty breakfasts like pancakes and oatmeal, add a healthy serving of berries for a mood blast. But if a grab-and-go breakfast is more your style, try our Mood-Boosting Berry Smoothie. It’s vegan and gluten-free, and you can even prep the ingredients the night before and store them in the fridge (except the banana; it’ll turn brown in cold storage). If the berries are frozen, allow them to thaw at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, or in the fridge overnight. The next morning, toss everything in the blender, and you’re good to go!

 

Mood-Boosting Berry Smoothie

Makes 2 servings

1 cup mixed berries 

1 banana

1/2 cup fresh spinach

1/4 cup roasted unsalted walnuts

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more almond milk until it reaches an easily drinkable consistency.

Berries for Breakfast: 7 Ways to Use Your Favorite Fruit to Start the Day

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Berries are the undisputed champ of the breakfast table, and with good reason: they’re not just a healthy way to kick off your day, they’re also incredibly versatile and full of flavor. And did we mention crowd-pleasing? We can’t think of another food that’s universally loved by both adults and kids.

And since there’s evidence that eating something sweet with breakfast can actually help you lose weight and keep it off, we think it’s a great time to make strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries a regular part of your breakfast routine. Here are seven of our favorite ways to enjoy berries for breakfast:

  1. In smoothies. Mix with cow’s milk or yogurt (or non-dairy milk or yogurt) and a banana for a rich, creamy texture. Or for a powerful antioxidant boost, blend with a handful of spinach or kale, plus a teaspoon of fresh ginger for a zingy wake-up drink.
  2. Fresh on top of oatmeal or cereal. Gluten free or low-carb? No problem! Try this nut porridge recipe, and sub out the apples and raisins with your favorite berry mix.  
  3. Fresh on top of pancakes or waffles, or a bowl of yogurt. We also love them cooked into the pancakes or waffles—just drop a handful of berries into the batter, once you’ve poured it into the waffle iron or skillet—with yogurt drizzled over the top! Add a handful of chopped walnuts for extra protein.
  4. Blended with acai, another superfood, to make acai bowls. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries all lend sweetness to the acai, and the combination creates a vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant blast that’s unmatched by any single food. Top with granola and more fresh berries, or for a tropical twist, add mango and pineapple chunks.
  5. In baked treats like muffins, scones, popovers, coffee cake, and sweet breads. Use a .5:1 mix of wheat and all-purpose flour for extra fiber, or try experimenting with almond flour for a gluten-free, protein-rich, flavor-packed breakfast you can grab on the go.
  6. Cooked into conserves or jams and spread over freshly made warm bread or toast.
  7. In homemade granola bars and oat squares. We’re partial to this vegan berry oat square recipe, featuring blueberries and strawberries, mixed with oatmeal, spices, and maple syrup.

 

Holiday Berry Recipes You Might Just Want to Eat All Year Long

Just because apples, pears, pumpkins, and squash dominate the culinary landscape in the fall doesn’t mean you can’t serve impressive berry entrees and desserts at your holiday parties. Here’s our roundup of holiday berry recipes with warm, harvesty flavors your guests will swoon over.

 

Roasted Berry and Brie Kale Salad

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As if we needed proof that strawberries and blueberries could get richer and more flavorful, this recipe takes humble berries to the next level by roasting them with a bit of salt and pepper, then tossing them with baby kale and tangy brie. Makes a great leftover lunch after the parties have wrapped.

 

 

Raspberry Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

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One bite of this red zinfandel–spiked sauce, on its own or drizzled over your turkey and stuffing, and you’ll never go back to traditional, sugar-laden cranberry sauce.

 

Spicy Turkey Wraps with Strawberry Salsa

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Looking for an alternative to the typical sliced Thanksgiving turkey? Try this spicy-sweet wrap—ideal for buffet-style parties or as finger sandwiches on the hors d’oeuvres table.

 

Maple and Blackberry Orange Glazed Ham

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If complex flavors are your thing, look no farther than this Maple and Blackberry Orange Glazed Ham. It’s a great way to give top billing to those blackberry preserves you made back in the summer, combined with that quintessential harvest flavor, maple.

 

Wild Blueberry Egg Nog

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Blueberries and bourbon? Turns out they’re a match made in holiday heaven. This dairy-free, gluten-free recipe offers an egg-free option, which also makes it great for serving to vegans and those with food intolerances.

 

Fig-and-Raspberry Tart with Chestnut Honey

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We love this tart for a grown-up dinner party. The mix of savory spices like bay and rosemary balance out the sweetness of raspberries and figs, and the chestnut honey lends an unexpectedly spicy flavor.

 

Triple Berry Pie

Go all in with this berry trifecta—the perfect way to enjoy some of those blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries from the farmers’ market that you stashed in the freezer.

 

 

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberry Santas

Because it’s never too early to start planning tasty (and adorable) winter or Christmas desserts, here’s a recipe that’s equal parts delicious and crafty, featuring creamy cheesecake, plump strawberries, and chocolate chips. Kids will love helping to make these fun little edible Santas.

 

Are Frozen Berries as Nutritious as Fresh? You Bet!

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A May article in The Guardian posed the following question and answer:

Q: Fresh [food] is best – right?

A: In fact, studies on the relative benefits of fresh and frozen show no consistent differences.

As far back as the late 1990s, the Food & Drug Administration declared that frozen fruits and vegetables provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. Meanwhile, a more recent story on Health.com notes, “Some of the healthiest foods in the market are in the freezer section.” 

So when it comes to those local berries you bought and froze during the summer, rest assured that enjoying them during the fall and winter doesn’t mean that your favorite recipes will lack for any of the health benefits that make strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries the superfoods they are. No matter whether fresh or frozen, berries are nutritional powerhouses that can contribute to a variety of positive health effects, from preventing to disease to maintaining a consistent weight.

The ability of frozen fruit and vegetables to retain their nutritional value has a lot to do with the quick-freezing and flash-freezing technologies that have been developed and refined since the 1920s. These days, frozen berries show no significant difference in nutrient levels as their fresh counterparts. They’ve also improved a lot in texture and flavor, thanks to manufactures’ desire to satisfy the savvy customer’s demand for healthier, better-tasting, and better-quality foods.

So take out a bag or two of your frozen farmers’ market berries and allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge. Add strawberries or blackberries to pancakes or acai bowls, fold blueberries into muffins and breads, and savor raspberries in sauces for meat and fish. Or enjoy enjoy a mix of berries in pies, tarts, trifles, and parfaits—without guilt or fear that they’re not as good for you as their freshly picked friends.