When we think of the summer our minds go to annual holidays, sun, sea, sand, hot weather. Each and their favourite way of enjoying the season. Some of us may also think of the delicious and wide range of summer fruit including melons, watermelons, apricots, peaches, nectarines, grapes, some types of apples and of course berries. Here in the UK many of us eagerly await the arrival of British summer fruits in the local shops and farmers markets. Along with Wimbledon and Ascot the appearance of the much loved British berries are a sure sign that summer has finally arrived.
Strawberries are very nutritious. They are high in vitamin C and antioxidants and contain fibre, vitamin E, vitamin K, B-vitamins, potassium, manganese and iron. They are also fat free and low in calories. In ancient times, strawberries were used to help with digestive ailments and skin irritations. It is thought that the fibre and fructose may help regulate blood sugar levels and of course, fibre has a satiating effect which will help weight loss. To borrow the words of 17th century writer Dr. William Butler; ‘Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did’.
As with strawberries, blackberries are low in calories, high in fibre and helps steady blood sugar levels. They are high in antioxidants, and are a great source of vitamin C. They also contain vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K, potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium.
Blackberries are native to the British Isles and they grow wild all over Britain. The National Trust offers blackberry picking as a suggested family activity. Blackberry picking is fun, the exercise is healthy, and if it's in the sunshine it will also fill your reserves of vitamin D. To top it all, if you spot the first Blackberry of the year, according to a south west England folk tradition you'll be cured of all your warts. Definitely a good deal.
The raspberry is thought to originate in the Mount Ida in Turkey and was brought to Britain by the Romans. Legend goes that they were discovered by the Greek gods searching for berries on Mount Ida. Like their cousins the blackberry and strawberry, raspberries are low in fat and calories and are a rich source of fibre which encourages satiation thereby aiding weight loss. They are also high in antioxidants, vitamin C and contain potassium, manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. In herbal medicine, raspberry leaf tea is believed to tone the muscles of the womb, to help it to work better during labour. Cherokee women are said to have drank raspberry juice during labour and other Native Americans believed that raspberry juice helped relieve nausea during pregnancy.
The blueberry is native to America and was not cultivated commercially until the early 20th century. Blueberries are very low on calories and as with the other berries, rich in nutrients. They are high in antioxidants which protect against cancers, degenerative diseases and infections and contain multiple vitamins and minerals. Research suggests that they may also help reduce blood sugar levels including potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc.
Blackcurrants are another of the great British summer fruit. They’ve been grown in the British Isles for over 500 years and the picking season is in July and August. Like the other berries, blackcurrants are rich in antioxidants, which are essential for good health.
Berries are a great addition to your diet. They are wholesome and nutritious and can be part of the all-important 'five a day' portions of fruit and veg. They are low in salt, high in vitamin C and also provide dietary fibre. Berries also contain natural sugars which is particularly attractive to those of us with a sweet tooth. The red, blue or purple colour are powerful antioxidants that are thought to protect from heart disease and some types of cancer.
According to a study carried out by the Neuroscience Lab at the United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, berries help ease the symptoms of arthritis. According to the US based Arthritis Foundation, James Joseph, PhD, director of the Neuroscience Lab explained that we become more susceptible to the damaging effects of free radicals and inflammation as we age. Berries help prevent those effects by turning off the inflammation signals, making them an ideal part of your diet.
Often, we might come across references, especially in the popular press describing a particular fruit or vegetable as a ‘superfood’. Even though as we have seen, some fruit or vegetables such as berries are high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients that make them extremely healthy, this does not mean that by eating them lo and behold, you are ensuring your health for evermore. We safeguard our health by eating a wide variety of unprocessed fruit and vegetables of all colours, investing in physical exercise and avoiding foods that are high in added sugars and salts. Fancy something sweet, why have a chocolate or pastry if you can indulge in berries?