Health

Don’t overlook the power of blackberries

Blackberries are red and do not turn black until fully ripened.

Growing up as a kid, my brother, sister and I had all kinds of fruits and vegetables growing in our backyard.   One of my fondest memories is picking and eating raspberries and blackberries right off the bushes!  I was particularly fond of the blackberries.  These days, the lowly blackberries are overshadowed by fan favorites:  strawberries and blueberries.  While they all contain a powerhouse of health benefits, I feel compelled to talk about blackberries.

This probably stems from the fact that I recently reviewed a wonderful cozy mystery (see book review category), Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow.   Throughout the book Ms. Farrow scatters interesting tidbits on blackberries.  The one that really got my attention was the fact that one of their many qualities is that they can have a “skin tightening effect!”

While I was putting a lot of blueberries, strawberries and bananas in my smoothies, I shamefully had overlooked blackberries.  So I immediately ran out and got a pint of these deep, dark luscious berries.

Frankly I had forgotten how wonderful they taste.  Grab a handful as a snack or toss in a smoothie.  Add them to your morning cereal or use as a topping over vanilla ice cream or shortcake.  Bake into muffins – the possibilities are endless!

Just like other berries, they should be nice and sweet.  But just like other berries, if they are picked too early they can be more bitter than sweet. When I’ve come across bitter berries, I put them in a smoothie and add a little honey or extra vanilla ice-cream to take away the bitterness.

Why include blackberries in your diet?  Because blackberries:

  • Contain high levels of antioxidants that help the body fight against the adverse effects of free radicals (free radicals can damage cells).
  • Contain high levels of Vitamin C, necessary to help the body produce collagen (think skin) and strengthen the immune system.
  • Provide a good source of 2 types of fiber. Blackberries contain soluble fiber associated with lowering blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy cholesterol level. They also contain insoluble fiber that helps promote healthy digestion.
  • Are High in Vitamin A, a vitamin that supports your immune system and the maintenance of teeth, bones and eyesight.
  • Are a good source of Vitamin K, a nutrient known for blood clotting. IMPORTANT: If you are on blood thinners, always consult with your doctor to discuss your personal Vitamin K daily intake.

Can’t find fresh berries?  Check out frozen fruit.  Keep a frozen berry mix on hand for quick smoothies or toppings.  Most frozen berry mixes will include blackberries or you may be able to find a whole bag of frozen blackberries.

VERY BERRY SMOOTHIE:

Experiment with the ingredients below.  Then tailor to your liking – you may prefer more yogurt over ice-cream or more fruit, etc.  

1/2 cup of berries (any berries or a mix of them)

1/4 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt (use plain yogurt for lower sugar)

1/4 cup of vanilla ice-cream (French vanilla or slow churned is extra good)

1/2 cup of milk  (use skim, lowfat or whole)

Blend until smooth.  Garnish with additional fresh or frozen fruit.

TIP:  Add frozen fruit to your smoothie as a garnish.  On a hot day, the frozen fruit serves nicely as delicious ice-cubes that won’t dilute your drink as the fruit melts.

Be Aware:  Berries are fruit and contain natural sugar.  Eat fruit in moderation to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Here in Northern Virginia, it’s another sweltering day in the 90’s – right about now it’s time for me to whip up an afternoon blackberry smoothie – maybe it’s time for you to have one too!