Raspberries and blackberries have more in common than the space they typically share in supermarkets. Both are caneberries, which grow on woody canes or stems (whereas blueberries, for example, grow on bushes). But more important, they're two of the best--and tastiest--little things you can eat for your heart.
Berries are especially high in:
- other beneficial phytonutrients (plant-base compounds)
"Not only are the antioxidants in berries free-radical scavengers, but they can also turn off the signals that generate free radicals," says Jim Joseph, Ph.D., a research physiologist at Tufts University in Boston. That's important because free radicals oxidize, or damage, LDL (bad) cholesterol, leading to atherosclerosis.
Berries' potential antioxidant benefit is just one of many. In an eight-week study, middle-aged adults who consumed about 3/4 cup of various berries (including raspberries) and a small glass of berry juice daily had (when compared to nonberry eaters):
- significantly reduced blood pressure
- increased HDL (good) cholesterol
- reduced platelet activity (which helps blood flow better)
You can buy fresh blackberries and raspberries nearly year-round because they're imported from Mexico and other countries during winter months. But don't hesitate to buy frozen. To enjoy fresh raspberries and blackberries at their best, try these tips from experts:
-Avoid buying berries in damp or stained containers, which are signs of overripe fruit. -If a berry becomes moldy, discard it so the mold doesn't spread to the other berries.
-Refrigerate berries in a single layer (covered with a paper towel) and eat within three days.
-Wash berries just before eating them (not in advance, which will make them mushy).
Tip: "Raspberries are very delicate, so don't wash them under running water. It's best to put them in a single layer in a shallow colander, then loosely cover them and briefly immerse the colander in water," says Susan Lynn, a berry grower in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
"Frozen berries are certainly not a compromise compared with fresh," says Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission in Lynden. "Berries for frozen packaging are picked at the peak of ripeness and start their way through the freezing process as soon as 20 minutes from harvest." Companies use a quick freezing method that helps maintain quality and nutrients. Once purchased, eat frozen berries within 3-6 months to get the most nutrients and best taste.
Frozen raspberries and blackberries are perfect in fruit salads, muffins, smoothies, or simply by the spoonful. Many people prefer to eat them slightly frozen.
Tip: Add a small sprinkle of sugar to help bring out frozen berries' juices.
Berries are bursting with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Just 1 cup of raspberries or blackberries gives you half of your daily vitamin C and a third of your fiber needs!
(for 1 cup of berries):
14 g carbohydrate
7.5 g fiber
233 mg potassium
30 mg vitamin C
14.5 g carbohydrate
8 g fiber
186 mg potassium
32 mg vitamin C
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Tip: "One cup of blackberries or raspberries has even more fiber than a cup of bran-flake cereal," says Cat McKenzie, marketing director for the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission. Soluble fiber from berries and other foods may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Toasted pine nuts, juicy blackberries and raspberries, and fresh baby greens come together in this seasonal salad. The pork gets seasoned with just salt and pepper and the vinaigrette comes together with blackberries, lemon juice, oil, honey, salt, and pepper.
Flavor your favorite tea with fresh raspberries for a summer treat that weighs in at just 23 calories and no fat. Prep it in advance; the recipe can chill for up to 24 hours.
Tip: "Berries generally don't ripen or get sweeter after they're picked, although their color continues to develop and the acidity may decline, which may make them taste sweeter," says John Clark, Ph.D., a blackberry breeder and professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Omega-3-rich salmon pairs with heart-healthy berries in this zippy grilled dinner. The salsa is a blend of nectarines, raspberries, pecans, and barbecue sauce. Dive in!
Finish off with a berry-filled shortcake dessert. The prep work is a surprisingly short 25 minutes and the calorie count is low, too: Just 259 calories per yummy serving.
Still hungry? Enjoy all of these berry-filled recipes: