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Preventive Maintenance: A berry good season

Strawberry season is just around the corner, marking the beginning of a berry good season. Whether they're strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, currants or gooseberries -...

Karen Bowen

Karen Bowen

Strawberry season is just around the corner, marking the beginning of a berry good season. Whether they’re strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, currants or gooseberries – berries are good for you. Each fresh, tasty fruit bursts with a variety of vitamins and phytochemicals, all of which may prevent, and even treat some health problems.

Strawberries, for instance, are a wholesome source for Vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Just eight strawberries have more Vitamin C than a medium orange. Because they’re low in fat and calories, they make a great snack and may also help reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.

Each type of berry has its own health benefits.

No matter what berry you choose to eat, each sweet fruit can do wonders for keeping a good blood sugar level. Don’t let their sweetness trick you. Since the natural sugar found in fruits (fructose) is sweeter than the sugar in your sugar bowl (sucrose), it takes much less (with fewer calories) to get the same sweet taste. Fructose makes your blood sugar level rise at a much slower rate than table sugar does.

As well, berries are full of fiber and red-blue natural plant compounds (anthocyanins) that appear to help keep your blood sugar in check. Scientists believe anthocyanins, also found in cherries, may help keep your blood sugar level lower by boosting insulin production. When deciding between the fruit or a fruit juice, choose the fruit. Even though the juices have almost the same phytonutrients as whole berries, they are concentrated sources of carbohydrates, without the fiber which is necessary for blood sugar.

When breakfast time comes along and you’re eyeing that jar of jam or jelly for your toast, indulge, but spread lightly. Even jams and jellies boasting 100% natural fruit contain either added sugar or added fruit juice and have a higher sugar content than whole fresh fruit. Still, occasionally splurging with a tablespoon is fine. Just be sure to spread it on whole wheat toast or a whole wheat English muffin.

When you’re looking for fresh fruit, if possible, pick your own. Or, find a berry farm that picks them fresh. The healthiest berries are from farms that don’t use chemical pesticides, but no matter what, rinse your berries before you eat them. If you buy berries from a store, look for ripe, colourful, yet firm fruit, with no mould or mushy spots. Or, go to the frozen section of the grocery store for frozen berries. When thawed, they won’t be as firm as freshly picked berries, but they still have all the nutritional benefits of fresh ones.

Berries are excellent to eat whole, without anything extra, but don’t be afraid to experiment. For an extra treat, mix a variety of berries together. You might want to top it with just a touch (and I stress ‘a touch’) of whipped cream and nuts. Or, sprinkle a bowl full of berries with granola and splash on a drip of half and half or an alternative such as rice or soy milk.

Most berries taste great when eaten just as they are, but these ones are quite tart: gooseberries, lingonberries, and cranberries. That’s why cranberry juice is often blended with other juices to make it taste sweeter.

So when you’re eating your berries, whenever possible – eat them fresh. Pies, cobblers, and other deserts taste great, but the sugars and pastries added pack in the calories and overshadow the nutritional value of the fruit.

From now to September, everywhere you turn, you’re going to see roadside stands offering berry good treats. Take advantage of them and have a berry healthy summer!

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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