berry nutrition

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.

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.