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Berry Good

Charlyn Fargo on

Berries in July, fresh off the vine, just seem to taste better. Besides being the right colors (red strawberries and raspberries, blue blueberries), they are refreshing.

If a handful of berries isn't part of your daily diet, this month is a good time to start eating more.

Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are all great options that are bursting with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, which can help reduce the risk of cancers and other diseases. The key is eating a variety of berries (mixing them up) to reap the benefits of the different vitamins and minerals each berry has to offer. Berries are also ideal for weight loss because they're naturally sweet and delicious without lots of calories or fat.

Here's a breakdown of their benefits:

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and protective plant compounds like anthocyanins and can help fight inflammation. They may improve brain, eye and heart health, and they help to reduce the risk of cancer. A cup has 84 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber and 50% of the vitamin C recommended for a day. Store them in the refrigerator, and wash them just before eating to prevent mold.

Blackberries are an even better source of fiber. A cup has 62 calories, 8 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein. Choose blackberries that are shiny, and store them in the refrigerator prior to washing.

 

One cup of raspberries contains 65 calories and 8 grams of fiber. They are particularly rich in polyphenols, which, along with fiber, play an important role in a cancer-protective diet. Choose raspberries that are firm, plump and dry. Store in the refrigerator, and wash them just prior to eating.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese and phytonutrients, which gives them their heart-healthy and anti-cancer powers. A cup of strawberries has 49 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Choose berries that are shiny and firm with a bright red color. Their caps should be fresh, green and intact. Store in the refrigerator, and wash just before eating.

Eating just one serving of strawberries -- about eight of them -- per day may help improve heart health, lower the risk of developing some cancers and lower blood pressure. It's the potassium in strawberries that helps maintain normal blood pressure. Research shows that individuals who eat strawberries on a regular basis have higher blood levels of folate, vitamin C and phytonutrients, as well as a higher intake of fiber, than those who don't eat strawberries.

The bottom line? Including a daily serving of all the colorful berries might just help you achieve and maintain a lowered risk for developing certain diseases.

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