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The scoop on berries

Emma Stirling
Emma Stirling APD

Strawberries and cream may be a perfect match, but there are so many better ways to reap the health benefits of berries. From delicate raspberries to tart cranberries, there’s a variety to please every meal, snack or drink, not just dessert.

Apart from strawberries (GI 40), most berries actually have so little carbohydrate content it’s difficult to test their GI. Their low carbohydrate content means their glycemic load will also be low, so you really can enjoy them by the bowlful without concerns about their blood glucose impact.

Berries are also low in kilojoules and a good source of vitamin C and fibre. But it’s their potent phytochemicals that continue to make nutrition news. Blueberries have deep purple anthocyanin antioxidants which have been studied for their potential protection from Alzheimer’s disease and brain aging. And then there are vibrant red cranberries, with proanthocyanidins which may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and bacteria from attaching to the cell lining of the bladder. I have the scoop on cranberries on my blog here.

How far do you have to travel to pick a winning berry? In recent times home grown berries have taken a back seat as exotics from around the globe like acai, goji and the new, incaberries stole the headlines. Let’s take a closer look at dried goji berries which hail from the Himalayas and claim anti-aging, weight loss and cancer fighting protection. Traditional folk medicine is able to offer up a long list of ‘guarantees’, but you need to look past these anecdotal claims and uncover any hard evidence. To date, the published scientific studies on goji berries are lacking and we do not know how bioavailable and active their antioxidants are in the body. So for daily eating rest assured, that sticking to locally grown fresh berries (or frozen out of season) will definitely enhance your antioxidant intake.

BERRY PUDDING

Photo credit : 'Berry Pudding', Ian Hofstetter, The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook

Berry prep Robust berries like strawberries can be tossed under cold running water to clean. But raspberries and other delicates like blueberries, are best carefully tipped into a large bowl of cold water to bob around for a few seconds and then be scooped up with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.

Berries are beautiful eaten fresh, scattered on breakfast cereal, added to salads or whipped into a low GI smoothie. When supplies are bumper, freeze berries in zip lock bags, or make homemade fruit spreads and coulis sauces. Try these GI News recipes:
Ripe for the picking Berry picking is one of the best ways to teach children about food and nutrition. It’s fun, tasty and not too time consuming. Just take a look at my family’s adventures berry picking in Australia here.

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.