Berry Good for Your Heart

Many kinds of berries are high in heart-healthy antioxidants. Meet some of the top varieties get delicious ideas for enjoying them.

When it comes to foods that both taste great are great for your heart, it’s hard to beat the berry. Berries of all kinds are rich in antioxidants—substances found in certain foods that help fight cell damage.

“Antioxidants work everywhere in the body, including the heart,” says Johns Hopkins nutritionist Joshua Nachman, M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N. They’re best consumed in real, whole foods—not supplements—especially colorful fruits vegetables.

Berries count among the best, most delicious, most versatile sources of these phytonutrients (plant-based chemical compounds). The various types of berries contain slightly different qualities amounts of these nutrients, so it’s great to mix them up in your diet. Just remember to eat berries in moderation, Nachman says, because they do contain sugar. “Fresh or frozen is better than dried,” he adds. “Dried berries have only 20 percent as many phytonutrients, more sugar.”

Meet the pick of the berry crop:

Blueberries

Although they contain more sugar than other berries (15 grams per cup, compared to 5 grams for raspberries), this easy-to-find berry contains many different types of phytonutrients.

  • Buying storage tips: When they’re in season (June to August), buy enough to freeze for later; adding some vitamin C powder first will keep them fresh even longer. Store fresh berries in the crisper section of your refrigerator don’t rinse until you’re ready to use.
  • Eating tips: “Put down the processed blueberry-flavored snacks eat them whole,” Nachman says. Try adding a hful to a smoothie for sweetness.

Blackberries

“They’re kind of underplayed underappreciated,” Nachman says. They’re also among the berries highest in antioxidants fiber, they have been less cultivated than blueberries, meaning what we eat today is closer to the fruit that once existed in the wild.

  • Buying storage tips: Like most berries, blackberries are seasonal in late spring summer. Store them in the fridge, but not the crisper, eat within a few days.
  • Eating tips: Check farmers markets for blackberries’ close kin, the loganberry, boysenberry Marionberry. You can also buy these berries frozen defrost them in the microwave to add to cereal or atop coconut yogurt. “I’m not a person who usually suggests microwaving, but they thaw so quickly, it has a minimal impact on the antioxidants,” Nachman says.

Strawberries

Their bright red color helps you “eat the rainbow,” an easy way to ensure you’ll consume a rich variety of nutrients.

  • Buying storage tips: Because strawberries rank No. 4 on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of foods high in pesticides, Nachman recommends springing for organics. “Washing berries doesn’t help because the pesticide is in the soil grows into the berry itself, which also has no protective skin,” he explains. Look for berries that are red all over—no white—as they have more antioxidants better taste.
  • Eating tips: Try slicing them onto green salads.

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