A ways back, I revealed sexy secrets about beets and raved about an unexpected page-turner: Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, by Jo Robinson.
In that post, I promised more to come from this fantastic primer on fruits and veggies of past and present. So today, I’m featuring Robinson’s take on…
Blueberries & Blackberries
In Eating on the Wild Side, Robinson compares the appearance and nutrient profile of today’s berries with those of long ago.
She also offers guidance in making the best berry choices possible and taking simple measures to maximize the nutrients you’re feeding your body.
Some highlights on blueberries…
(Blueberries, dates & coconut butter—one of our favorite desserts)
- Unsurprisingly, the domesticated berries we eat today are far less nutritious than their wild ancestors. Good news is, they still have “four times more antioxidant activity than the majority of other fruits, ten times more than most vegetables, and forty times more than some cereals” (241).
- Domestication of blueberries is relatively recent and went down crazy-fast. It began a mere 150 years ago and was complete in just eight years (in contrast, most fruits and veggies were domesticated over the course of hundreds or thousands of years). Our drive to make wild blueberries more homogenized, productive, attractive and tasty greatly diminished their healing superpowers. We bred for bigger, lighter colored varieties…which literally pale in comparison to their darker, smaller ancestors.
- Though we’ve weakened their disease-fighting capacity, blueberries are still superstars. Studies point to anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory effects as well as potential to lower blood pressure, reduce build-up of arterial plaque, and help prevent obesity and diabetes. Blueberries also hold promise for slowing and even reversing dementia and cognitive decline.
- Frozen blueberries are nearly as nutritious as fresh ones. And the highest-quality frozen berries are those that are “flash-frozen” (also known as “individually quick frozen,” or IQF). If you can find frozen wild blueberries, even better. (Robinson also explains how to freeze your own to optimize nutrient preservation.)
- Cooked blueberries are more nutritious than raw ones. Same goes for canned blueberries, so long as you eat the canning liquid. Basically, the heat from cooking and canning changes the structure of valuable phytonutrients, making them more bioavailable. (In other words, our bodies are able to make more use of the good stuff, such as antioxidants.)
- Dried berries are less nutritious than fresh berries. The drying process diminishes antioxidant value by 50-80 percent. What’s more, most dried fruit found in stores has been infused with fruit juice, cane syrup or even high-fructose corn syrup in order to make it softer and sweeter. If you must have dried fruit, one option is getting a food dehydrator and doing it yourself. That way, you’ll at least avoid the added sweeteners.
Stuff worth knowing, right? (Particularly since blueberries are my favorite fruit.)
And now for a few highlights on blackberries…
(Blackberries & coconut butter atop “carrot fudge”—featured in our cook-up post here)
- Blackberries usually have more health-supporting anthocyanins than blueberries as well as a lower glycemic load. They’re also an excellent source of fiber, containing 8-10 grams per cup.
- Blackberries, like blueberries, were domesticated relatively recently (100-200 years ago). Thankfully, though, we didn’t see the need to make them lighter in color. So, unlike blueberries, blackberries have retained their dark coloring and high anthocyanin content. (Kind of important, seeing as anthocyanins are the most beneficial phytonutrient in both fruits.)
- When it comes to cooking, canning, freezing and drying, blackberries are akin to blueberries. (So see above.)
Good stuff to know, hey? (Oh, and they taste pretty good too.)
As I’ve said before, Robinson’s book is hard to put down. Each chapter covers a particular fruit or vegetable or a family of fruits or vegetables—discussing how they’ve changed, which ones are best and why, and how to select and prepare them to optimize benefits.
The next chapter after Blueberries & Blackberries, for instance, covers Strawberries, Cranberries & Raspberries. (Topic for another post perhaps?)
May sound ho-hum (well, actually, not to me…but perhaps to some). But each page is filled with things that make you go: “Are you freaking kidding me? That’s crazy talk! Why didn’t I know that? Well, crap, that changes everything!”
Seriously, people. It’s a book on produce that made me (momentarily) forget the unfathomable fate of Dr. Dreamy.
We’ll definitely be incorporating Robinson’s facts and strategies into our work with Alchemist Eating clients.
So grab a handful of berries (and perhaps a spoonful of coconut milk).
And check back this Sunday for a cook-up featuring berry-licious choices for the week ahead.
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