Summer means more than fun in the sun. Summer is also berry season! Because of their tiny size, these delicious fruits make great on-the-go snacks, and can even help you stay hydrated on the hottest days. They're packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they hold a vast array of health benefits.
Unlike many kinds of healthy produce, berries can be found in just about every supermarket, and there are many all-natural, organic brands to choose from. You can also find them at your local farmer's market, or even find farms or community gardens that allow you to pick your own. Picking or buying berries in bulk also allows you to preserve or can them while they're at their peak, helping them to last even beyond the summer season.
Since they're still in season now, let's explore the health benefits of the five most popular summer berries in the U.S.
With their relatively large size, unique texture, and famously sweet flavor, it's no wonder the strawberry is the most popular berry in the United States. It is commonly used in everything from baked goods, to smoothies, to jams, and jellies. But most people may not realize the health benefits of this almost candy-like fruit.
For one thing, strawberries are high in dietary fiber, which means that eating them will keep you full for a while. They are extremely high in vitamin C, which boosts immunity and can even help protect against the common cold.
Strawberries are also high in iodine, which can help improve and maintain brain health. The folic acid present in strawberries may be of particular interest to pregnant women, since folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord by up to 70 percent.
The U.S. is the world's biggest producer of blueberries, and they are the second most popular berries in the country. Blueberry pie is one of the most popular kinds of pie in the United States, but besides being delicious, this berry is famous for being an antioxidant powerhouse. Blueberries can even help fight the number one killer of both men and women in the United States--heart disease--by helping to lower LDL cholesterol.
The third most popular berry in the U.S. is the versatile raspberry, which can be tart or sweet, bright or dark, depending on which of the four varieties (red, black, purple, or yellow) you choose. Their health benefits are almost as diverse as their colors, from fighting cancer to promoting eye health. Raspberries have a high concentration of ellagic acid, which has been shown to help prevent some types of cancer.
Eating raspberries can also help ward off damage from macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition which can lead to blindness. Raspberries have long been prized in the beauty world for their ability to fight signs of aging skin, such as wrinkles and darkening. A wide variety of recipes for raspberry facial masks can be found online.
The famously dark, tart blackberry is the fourth most popular berry in the united states. Because this berry can be a bit sour, many people prefer to eat it cooked. But the health benefits of raw blackberries are impressive enough to not want to miss out on. For one thing, blackberries are rich in polyphenols--a class of antioxidants known for their cancer-preventative and cancer-fighting properties. One polyphenol which blackberries contain in high concentrations is anthocyanins, which has been shown to play a significant role in preventing cancer.
Another benefit of the antioxidants found in blackberries is their ability help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a natural process in the body, but unhealthy modern diets can cause chronic inflammation, which can lead to many diseases and other issues. Adding blackberries to one's diet can therefore boost overall health by ridding the body of inflammation and allowing the body's natural processes to occur as they should.
If you're still a bit hesitant about the tart bite of raw blackberries, consider mixing them with yogurt or sweet cereal to counteract the sourness and add a slight kick to your morning routine.
Strictly speaking, cranberries are the fourth most popular berry in the U.S., but their harvesting season occurs after summer is over, in early fall. The fourth most popular summer berry in the country is, funnily enough, one that you may never have heard of. Boysenberries are a cross between a European raspberry, European blackerry, an American dewberry and the loganberry. Developed in the early 1900s, it was this berry that made California's famous Knott's Berry Farm famous. Most boysenberries in the U.S. are grown and sold in California.
But even if you live outside the golden state, there's no reason you can't enjoy the many health benefits of boysenberries. This fruit can improve your digestive health, thanks to its high concentration of dietary fiber. They are an excellent source of vitamin B-complex, which may be of particular interest to pregnant women, since this can help in neural tube formation and red blood cell formation in prenatal babies. Boysenberries have a high concentration of Vitamin K that can help bones retain calcium, thus retaining their strength.
Though they may look like a strange cross between a raspberry and blackberry (which is, of course, exactly what they are!) boysenberries are definitely worth giving a try this summer!