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Picking Berries Is Choosing Wisely

Picking Berries Is Choosing Wisely

In recent weeks in this space we've made mention of summertime fun at the beach, on the golf course or at some other familiar playground. Let's not limit ourselves, however; there are different types of things we can do to get the most out of the hazy, lazy days of summer. Like picking (and eating) berries, for instance.

Who among us at some point hasn't come across patches of raspberries, strawberries or blackberries, and then gone and retrieved a basket for picking and collecting them? Maybe we can't resist the impulse and gobble them down right away, or we take them home to be served later that day as a vanilla yogurt-covered dessert, or perhaps they get baked in a pie by Mom or Grandma to be served at the dinner table.

To all that -- and speaking from personal experience as a young boy who cherished summers at a family camp surrounded by raspberry bushes, I say yummy, and why stop now? For millions of us, I suspect, freshly-picked berries have been berry-berry good to us, and in ways we might not have suspected at the time. They are good for our health as well as our appetites.

It isn't just raspberries, strawberries and blackberries, either; boysenberries, cranberries, and, of course, blueberries are also among these cute little buggers that deliver health doses of antioxidants, which not only support our good health but also protect our skin and hair, and help fight back against certain diseases. Among the antioxidants found in berries are anthocyanins, quercetin and Vitamin C.

"Anthocyanins give berries their vibrant color, reduce inflammation, and may help prevent and manage arthritis,” says Joy Bauer, a nutrition and health expert for NBC's Today show, writing at joybauer.com. "Anthocyanins work together with quercetin to help slow age-related memory-loss. Quercetin can also decrease the inflammatory effects of chemicals in the synovial fluid of the joints for people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.”

Now that you've been dished your fill of technical medical terms, how about we get down to some of the other basics of berries: such as how, as juicy foods, they have a high percentage of water, which is always good to put inside you when you are trying to lose weight. Berries also contain beaucoup fiber, which has been known to help reduce cholesterol and aid in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Folate, another prominent ingredient in berries, is a great multitasker; in one hand helping to ward off cardiovascular disease and age-related memory loss, according to joybauer.com, and in the other staying involved in the production of serotonin that can help combat depression and enhance your mood.

Getting your hands on berries isn't that difficult, even if you don't live near a lake in Vermont guarded by raspberry-bearing plants begging to be plucked by grubby little hands. Many grocery stores carry an assortment of berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, as well as blackberries and raspberries.

Keep in mind, though, when buying berries, they have a limited shelf life, even if kept refrigerated, as they should. According to Naturipe Farms, which bestows the title of "superfoods" on berries and itself encompasses a group of berry growers based in Michigan, California and Chile, berries have the following respective shelf lives:

  • Strawberries – 3 to 7 days after purchase
  • Blueberries – 10 to 14 days after purchase
  • Raspberries – 2 to 3 days after purchase
  • Blackberries – 2 to 3 days after purchase
  • Cranberries – 4 to 8 weeks after purchase

Thanks to the modern marvels associated with refrigeration, many types of berries are available year-round in produce sections across America. Still, there's nothing quite like picking them yourself, fresh off the bush naturally connected to the soil. In fact, there are places out there where you can pick your own without having to search them out. It might be a little out of the way, but Barrie Hill Farms in southern Ontario bills itself as "a leading farm destination for excellent berry picking, farm fresh food and fun family outings." Perhaps a vacation trip is in order, unlike any you've ever taken before.

Consider it just one more "berry good" idea for you and your loved ones, as well as for your health.