Berries: Nature’s “Magic” Bullets
By Alysia Santo
Versatile, tasty, and a cinch to prepare, fresh berries provide a formidable array of cancer fighting agents. Needing little preparation besides a thorough rinse, berries are a powerful source of vitamins and fiber. They boost the immune system, help the digestive tract stay on track, and are also rich in antioxidants that are important during chemo. Chemo often produces free radicals, those churlish charged atoms that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA. The antioxidants found in all berries bind to free radicals, which in turn neutralizes them. And good riddance!
VERY BERRY BASICS
Blueberries, often referred to as a “super-food,” are high in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese, and have high levels of antioxidants. They can help balance out the cellular damage caused by radiation therapy.
Strawberries are a good source of folate, potassium, fiber, and manganese, and have even more vitamin C than oranges. For more information on the wonderful fruit read our strawberry article.
Blackberries contain fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, potassium, and copper, and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants, third behind blueberries and cranberries in the berry category.
Raspberries contain vitamin C, magnesium and manganese, and are higher in fiber than any other fruit. Fiber helps the colon function, and also helps you feel full, important for curbing cravings for sugary snacks that aren’t good for those dealing with cancer.
Choose fresh, plump berries, keeping an eye out for the powdery “bloom” (a delicate white coating) on blueberries and bright color that signifies freshness.
You can freeze fresh berries by spreading them onto a baking tray in a single layer and putting them into the freezer. This will prevent them freezing into clumps. When they are fully frozen, tip them into plastic bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing. Berries will stay edible in the freezer indefinitely—just take out a handful when you are ready to eat them -- so you can enjoy their health benefits throughout the winter. They can also be dried using a food dehydrator.
Berries are adaptable, and can be eaten fresh, frozen or dry. They’re a perfect snack eaten alone; sprinkled on cereals and salads for a burst of flavor and color; and as a topping for yogurt, oatmeal, or cottage cheese. They are also a great addition to smoothies and the source of delicious jams. Try CFYL’s very simple and delicious Strawberry Compote.
Use frozen berries straight out of the freezer. Defrosting them before use lessens their nutrient content.