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Berries... One of the Tastes of Summer | May 20, 2009

by SeAnne Safaii-Fabiano and UI student Kelsey Vaughn

It ‘s the time of year when bushes are bursting with another “superfood”, luscious red, blue, and purple berries. Spring and summer are the best time of the year to buy fresh fruit, especially berries. In the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to have a large selection of berries available: blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries in season between May and October. With so many varieties available, it is easy to work berries into any meal.

A cup of berries are low in calories, high in fiber, Vitamin C and other antioxidants. The pigments that give berries their bright, beautiful colors are a result of their phytochemicals and flavonoids that have been linked to reducing the risk for chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. Many phytonutrients concentrate in the peel or skin of fruit, so with their edible skin, you get a high skin-to-fruit ratio.

There are countless uses for berries when it comes to breakfast. They can be used as a topping for many cereals or oatmeal, and are a great addition to pancake batter. Another tasty idea is to create a berry breakfast sandwich. Spread a layer of low- fat ricotta cheese onto a slice of toasted whole wheat bread and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of brown sugar. Broil the bread in the oven until the brown sugar melts, and then top with your favorite summer berries and enjoy.
Lunch is a perfect time to add fresh berries to your menu. They are easy to pack and add to any side dish. Light yogurt is a great enhancement to lunches because it is low in fat and sugar. Tossing in a few berries and almonds can take yogurt to a whole new level. Many restaurants now offer berry and yogurt parfaits as one of their menu options. If you have access to a blender, you can make a nutrient-rich smoothie by combining fresh berries, low-fat milk, and light yogurt in a blender with ice. This snack is a favorite among children.

Tossing berries into a spinach salad is a great way to add fruit to your dinner and spice up your salads. Berries not only add texture to salads, but also contribute to visual appeal with their bright colors. Strawberries and walnuts make a great spinach salad topping combination, as do raspberries with almonds, or blueberries with pecans and feta cheese. Tossing these salads with light raspberry vinaigrette creates the perfect balance of sweetness. It’s so easy to meet your requirement for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day by choosing great tasting, antioxidant-rich berries!