June is the season for berries. Sweet, juicy summer berries are like the healthy "candy" of the food world. Not only are berries nutritious, new research indicates that eating berries also may help stave off the cognitive decline and memory loss that come with aging.
Data from the long-running Nurse's Health Study shows that women who ate blueberries and/or strawberries delayed memory decline (from aging) up to 2 1/2 years compared with those who did not eat berries. The women gained this benefit from consuming just two or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week.
Even if you're not worried about memory loss, berries still pack a healthy punch for just a few calories.
Strawberries and blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, the pigment in plants that give them their dark red or blue coloring. Anthocyanins help move blood into the brain and have been linked to a broad range of health benefits, such as vision and heart health.
Strawberries have only 22 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates, and they provide 2 grams of fiber per half-cup serving. To enjoy them at their best, strawberries must be handled with care.
To wash strawberries, hold them under gently running cool water just long enough to remove the dirt. Don't soak strawberries as they will absorb water and lose flavor. For the best flavor, wash strawberries just before you plan to use them. Strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Blackberries have 37 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fiber in a half cup. Blueberries spoil quickly, so be sure to use or freeze them soon after picking.
Blueberries have 41 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber per half cup. Like other berries, blueberries are a good source of vitamin C.
Raspberries have 30 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fiber for every half cup. Raspberries are very fragile and easily damaged. If bought fresh, eat them within one to two days. Wash raspberries just before you eat them because they can absorb the water, which will dilute the taste.
If you want to enjoy fresh fruit year-round, berries can be frozen for later use. Here are a few freezing tips:
* Add 3/4 cup sugar to one quart of whole strawberries and mix thoroughly. Let stand 15 minutes and then pack into containers, leaving headspace for expansion. Seal and freeze.
* Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries can be frozen whole.
* Don't wash blueberries before freezing, as it will make for a tougher skin. Wash just before you're going to use them.
You can enjoy sweet, delicious summer berries on their own, or try some of the many ways to add berries to a healthful diet. Sprinkle them on cereal, add them to yogurt, enjoy berry toppings on pancakes or use them in salads, like this recipe for Summer Berry, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad. This dish showcases the sweetness of the berries while providing the crunch and smoothness of the pecans and goat cheese. It's the perfect summer salad!
SUMMER BERRIES, PECAN AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD
This salad beautifully showcases the best berries of the season. It's also a refreshing accompaniment to grilled or spicy barbeque dishes.
4 large fresh strawberries, leaves removed, quartered, rinsed and drained
2 ounces fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
2 ounces fresh raspberries, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided use
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package (8 ounces) mixed salad greens with spinach
3 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
1 large avocado, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1. In a small, nonstick skillet, add the pecans and toast, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of the honey, and toast, stirring occasionally for 1 minute. Cool and set aside.
2. In small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, the remaining 1 tablespoon honey, the garlic, mustard, salt and black and cayenne pepper. Set dressing aside.
3. In a salad bowl, toss together the salad greens, berries and pecans. Top with goat cheese and avocado. Sprinkle with the lemon or lime juice. Pour dressing around the edges of the salad and gently toss the ingredients together. Serve immediately. Serves 4.