There’s something magical about a British summer, especially as the days lengthen and we can savour more al fresco meals or after-work rosés in the glow of summer evening. This is also a great time to make the most of British berry season.
Sweet strawberries, plump blueberries and juicy, squidgy raspberries and blackberries are mega healthy, yet feel like such a treat to eat.
So make the most of those summer harvests while you can, we say. And just to make you feel even better about picking up another punnet or heading off to forage blackberries with your Tupperware later in the season, here are six things that make British berries the ultimate healthy choice.
1. They provide a guilt-free sweet hit
Trying to cut down on refined sugar? Berries can help satisfy those biscuit cravings. “Berries are a great way to add something sweet into your diet without adding sugar,” says Rob Hobson, leading registered nutritionist and head of nutrition at Healthspan.
“Berries are really versatile and can be used as a topping, added to smoothies, made into compotes or added to salads and sauces for savoury dishes.”
2. And they give a mega-vitamin boost
Not only do berries hit that sweet spot in the taste stakes, they are one of nature’s finest when it comes to nutrition – 100g of strawberries contains almost all your recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is required to produce collagen in the body, which helps to maintain healthy skin, blood vessels and cartilage,” says Rob. “Berries also contain phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body and may help to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer.”
3. Puds made with berries can be pretty healthy
Tucking into a homemade blackberry crumble (especially if you went out earlier to pick the berries yourself) is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. The good news is, you can still enjoy this treat and not veer too far from your healthy-eating goals.
“The healthiest way to eat berries is in their raw state, especially as the vitamin C content is compromised when they are cut or exposed to light and heat,” says Rob. “[But] there is still a health benefit to eating berries any way they come and even in a crumble they will be counted as one portion of your daily fruit and vegetable intake.
“There is nothing wrong with eating a full-on crumble occasionally as part of a healthy diet, but you can explore healthier ways of making the topping. Using oats, nuts and seeds can add additional nutrients such as iron, magnesium and zinc. You can substitute sugar and butter with a little honey and light olive oil. You could also just add less crumble topping.”
4. Berries will boost your brain power
Topping up with a few berries could help you stay fresh and alert at work, too.
“Your brain and body need glucose for energy. In fact, your brain can’t store glucose, so you need to give it a fresh supply every three to four hours, otherwise you’ll find your mood and concentration dip,” explains food psychologist and nutritionist Dr Christy Fergusson, speaking for British Summer Fruits.
“By choosing low glycaemic-load fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, you can replenish the brain. Fresh berries contain fructose (fruit sugar) along with fibre, nutrients and antioxidants, making their natural sugars release slowly into your bloodstream to help keep your mood and energy levels steady throughout the day.”
5. They are brilliant for breakfasts
We’re all well aware it’s the most important meal of the day – and berries are one of the easiest ways to whip up a healthy and delicious breakfast in a few minutes flat. Simply pile them on top of oats and yogurt, or chuck them in a smoothie-maker with your other ingredients of choice and blitz.
And when you have a bit more time, there’s blueberry pancakes, muffins, compotes whizzed up and drizzled on crunchy granola…
6. They make grazing between meals OK
If you’re anything like us, and can’t get through the day without a ready supply of snacks to munch on between meals – but you’re conscious of making healthy choices too – then berries really are the answer to your prayers.
Let’s face it, they’re far more satisfying than a dry pile of seeds and nuts!