No doubt you’ve heard the news about antioxidants and why they are important to your health. The fact that normal functioning cells within one’s body can oxidize over time has been well publicized. Whether it be age-related or a result of external conditions, sometimes these oxidized cells turn into free radicals—dangerous cells that can harm other cells and lead to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and others. The good news is that a diet heavy in antioxidants can slow or altogether stop this dangerous process.

That’s the berries.

A major study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry names berries as one of the best of antioxidant-rich fruit. Traditional berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries all carry a high level of this natural protection. Recent studies have shown that black currants and acai berries are found to have even higher levels of antioxidants. But as a general rule, almost all dark-colored berries will provide some nutritional benefit.

“Berries are available almost year-round now…and even though they may be more expensive some times of the year, they’re still much more accessible than they used to be,” says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic.

Your “Berry” Godmother
So, if she could wave her magic wand, where would your Berry Godmother make fresh berries appear? Well, they are great on a mixed greens salad or in whole grain pancakes and nut breads. Top off French toast and mix into yogurt for a new twist to an old standard. Or keep a small sealed bag in the freezer to serve for dessert with just a touch of sugar.

Dried berries also deliver antioxidant value. Mix up a bag of your own custom trail mix with dried cranberries, cherries, walnuts and your other favorite crunchy munchies. Or simply keep a bag of the little beauties in your desk drawer to snack on during the day.

Of course, juices and juice blends provide the easiest method for getting a healthy dose of free radical fighting power on-the-go—one eight-ounce glass of juice counts as a single serving of fruit! And today’s consumer has a myriad of different choices when it comes to variety. Gone are the days of plain old apple juice. Today’s choices include Blueberry/Black Currant blends, 100% Tart Cherry or Organic Red Raspberry juice. Other free radical fighters include apples, peaches, mangoes and melons, and recent studies show that green tea is another valuable source.

Just remember, a diet including berries and other fruits, fresh veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and good proteins will serve you well. Variety is the spice of long life!

Easy Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries, raspberries or blueberries
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

Mix all ingredients together in a blender until all berries are thoroughly pureed into the yogurt.
For more nutritional punch, add some soy powder for extra protein or a banana for potassium.

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