Mother Nature's Edible Jewels: Berries
More than inky pops of color, what berries lack in size they more than make up for in massive health benefits. Mother Nature's edible jewels get their royal indigo, ruby and gold pigments from an abundance of antioxidants. Yogurt, cereal or salad, add blueberries or raspberries to any dish and instantly boost your nutritional content. Instead of chips, snack on a handful of blackberries. Tart or bursting with sweetness, over centuries, berries have evolved through the process of cross-breeding. From the boysenberry to the loganberry, various berries were invented with the goal of altering things like size acidity and sweetness. According to nutritionist and Plant based chef, culinary consultant, and founder of Eden's Bowls, Michelle Robinson, when adding berries to your diet, it’s best to opt for “simpler preparation, which preserves the uniqueness and integrity of the fruit.”
Below, find a handful of uncommon berries & their benefits.
According to Robinson, these pleasantly tart berries are a “must try.” Health benefits include: anti-inflammatory, immune enhancing, and an abundance of vitamin C. Another tip from Robinson, is mixing berries with the purest form of chocolate possible, to create antioxidant synergy.
Dark purple, scarlet, or white, mulberries contain iron, rutin, potassium, riboflavin; also vitamins C, E and K1. And if that's not enough, mulberries are also being studied for anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. Plus, they’ve been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Not as trendy as Goji or Acai, these indigo delights, sometimes called the European wild blueberry, are as flavorful as they are healthy. Immune enhancing, sweet, and richly flavored, bilberries are one of the most potent sources of anthocyanins (plant compounds); their antioxidant properties protect skin from free radical damage, and may slow signs of aging. In holistic medicine, bilberries are recommended for eye health, and thought to improve vision. Because they contain tannins, they also help relieve sore throats. Additional benefits include, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and may prevent dementia, hyperglycemia, diabetes, as well as other diseases associated with aging. And bilberry leaves are being studied for possible diabetes prevention.
Luscious little explosions of flavor, blackberries are antioxidant rich, loaded with vitamins, including C, A, K as well as copper, niacin, phosphorus, calcium, folate and zinc. Known for improving eye and brain health, researchers found that blackberry extract may help reverse age related disorders and improve brain function. High concentrations of anthocyanins, responsible for the berry's depth of color, have been linked to anti-cancer properties; research has linked blackberries to slowing the growth of certain kinds of tumors.
Boysenberry (Rubus ursinus × Rubus idaeus)
Tasty boysenberries are quite the exotic mixture. Created by Charles Rudolph Boysen, they're a cross between 4 berries, loganberry, European raspberry, European blackberry, and American dewberry. A significant source of fiber, they contain manganese, copper, zinc, iron, and vitamin c; they also may fight macular degeneration. Additional benefits include: promoting healthy digestion and immune-boosting.
*Note on berries & kids
“Children always want to be involved, and very often, don’t like things they have never tried,” says Robinson. According to Robinson it’s a good idea to take your kids berry picking, and if possible plant berries in your garden. Also, important: make sure berries are always ripe. Robinson suggests keeping your child interested by varying how you serve different varieties of berries, “give them the option to try it plain and/or mix it or blend it up into their smoothies, waffles, pancakes, cookies, yogurt, etc.”
Robinson shares a couple of her favorite plant-based recipes that feature berries...
Raw Cacao Pudding with Berries
3-4 ripe bananas, well ripened, peeled
3-4 tbsp raw cacao powder, plus more to taste
4-6 medjool dates, pitted
Cacao nibs and berries, to garnish.
Add all ingredients, except cacao nibs and berries, to a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Taste. If the mixture is not chocolatey enough, add more cacao powder. If the mixture is too thin, add a few more dates and blend until desired consistency. Spoon pudding into serving cup/bowl and layer with berries of choice. Top with cacao nibs.
Blackberry-Lemon Chia Jam
2 ½ cups black berries
2 ½ tablespoons whole chia seeds
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Add blackberries to a small saucepan over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is heated and begins to break down and bubble. Use a spoon or potato masher to mash the fruit to your desired consistency. Remove from heat and add chia seeds, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix until combined. Taste for sweetness. If the mixture isn’t sweet enough, add a little of your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, agave, or honey. Set aside to cool. The jam will thicken as it cools. Once cooled, give it a good mix and if it’s too thick, add a little more lemon juice or water. Serve over porridge, on toast, or any way you normally enjoy jam.