Berries are one of the best things you can put in your body, AND they are in season right now! Flyte Family Farms has had berry picking open since June 16th, they are in most Farmer’s Markets around the area, and they are cheap and delicious in the store. Although strawberry season is almost over, we are in the middle of cherry season, blueberries/rasberries/strawberries should be here soon, and I’ve been picking mulberries off trees in the street when I go on walks with the dog (they aren’t as sweet or as expensive as the other varieties but I think they are still good…).
So why are berries so good for you? Let’s start with the anti-inflammatory compounds like anti-oxidants and anthocyanins. The short way to say this: higher consumption of berries has been linked to slowing cognitive degeneration, reducing risk of cancer, improving glaucoma, improving immune function, decreasing arthritis… it would almost be easier to ask what berries DON’T help rather than what they DO help as that list would be shorter. Oxidation is how the body rusts or ages, and berries contain compounds that prevent or reverse this from happening. All fruits and veggies have these compounds to some degree, but berries are especially rich in them.
Next, let’s talk about glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a food raises your blood sugar. The faster your sugar rises, the harder it is for your body to deal with the sugar you just consumed and respond appropriately. High glycemic index foods, like those containing sugar and white, processed flour, will skyrocket your blood sugar, then make you crash a few hours after eating them. High glycemic index foods can increase risk for diabetes or make diabetes harder to control. Temperate fruits, or fruits that are grown in areas like Wisconsin like apples and berries, are relatively low glycemic-index fruits. This is in contrast to high-glycemic index fruits that are grown in tropical regions, like mango, banana or pineapple. This means that although temperate fruits are sweet, the balance of sweetness, fiber, and other ingredients helps it to be absorbed by your body in a way to not put too much strain on the system to digest. Any fruit is typically going to have a lower glycemic index than typical processed, sugary desserts or treats though like doughnuts or cake… so even though temperate is best, fruit is best in general as a sweet treat.
As far as a quick recipe with berries, one way I will add cream to berries for a quick and healthy dessert is by making cream from a can of Coconut Milk instead of using whipping cream. Although coconut oil still contains saturated fat, which is the fat you are supposed to avoid because it can wreak havoc on your vascular system causing plaques, it has a short-chain saturated fat instead of a long-chain saturated fat like animal-based fats do. Eating less fat is best, but if you are going to indulge might as well do it with an oil that is associated with lower rates of heart disease instead of higher rates of heart disease.
To make coconut milk cream, take a can of CHILLED coconut milk… like put it in the fridge. This is important because coconut oil is more likely to be liquid at room temperature/temperatures above 72 degrees, partly because of those short-chain saturated fats I talked about. Take out the top, white, creamy part of the coconut milk, and about half of the clear liquid underneath. Blend it together using any type of blending tool- a Kitchen-Aid, immersion blender, classic blender, whisk, egg beater, something like that- and blend for several minutes until the coconut becomes light and creamy like whipped cream. Add to berries for a summer-y dessert perfect for the 4th of July (especially if you have red and blue berries to go with the white cream!) or any summer get together where taste and health should be the forefront.