Eat Beat

Berry Basics
Colorful, delicious fruits have many health benefits.

by Kara Mayer Robinson

What’s a summer without the vivid reds and blues of strawberries and blueberries? Fresh berries are bursting with antioxidants, fiber, folic acid and phytonutrients (chemicals believed to have beneficial health effects). Here’s why we love them and what to look for:

Eat ’em because: Eight medium-sized strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange and 20 percent of your daily recommended value of folic acid. At only 45 calories and 16 percent of your daily supply of fiber, they’re a real peach!

Look for: A symmetrical shape, a nice sheen and even color. Tips shouldn’t be too seedy and tops shouldn’t show much white. The final test: Stems should be clean, dry and unwilted, says John Ebert, owner of Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Serve it up: Let them sit a bit at room temperature, rinse gently under water just before eating and don’t keep them in your fridge too long — five days max.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup; figures are percentage of daily recom-mended intake for a 2,000-calorie diet): calories 45, potassium,7%, total carbohydrate 4% (12 grams), dietary fiber 16% (4 grams), sugar 8 grams, protein 1 gram, vitamin C 160%, calcium 2%, iron 4%.

Eat ’em because: One cup of these berries boasts five grams of fiber and a gram of protein with only a single gram of fat. Plus, thanks to powerful flavonoids (plant pigments that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties), blueberries are serious brain food, says Jackie Keller, author of Body After Baby: The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight (Avery, $24.95).

Look for: Blueberries that are dry, plump and round. Perfectly ripe blueberries will have a soft hazy-white coating that protects them from the sun (known as “bloom”). Avoid those with bruises and, of course, those with skin more shriveled up than your Aunt Betty’s.

Serve it up: Keep them in a dry spot in your fridge. Blueberries have a pretty long shelf life for a berry — 5 to 7 days — but they’re best when they’re right off the bush, so enjoy them as soon as you can.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup): calories 84, total carbohydrate 7% (21 grams), dietary fiber 14% (4 grams), sugar 15 grams, protein 1 gram, vitamin A 2%, vitamin C 24%, calcium 1%, iron 2%.

Eat ’em because: A cup of these sweet treats weighs in with zero fat, sodium and cholesterol but serves up a healthy dose of vitamin C.

Look for: Go for plump, evenly-colored berries and choose those with a soft, hazy gloss. Dents, bruises and broken “druplets” (a.k.a. bumps) are red flags. And don’t be afraid of a little fuzz. Those hairs are called “styles” and are a natural part of these fragile beauties.

Serve it up: Rasp-berries are delicate and ultra-perishable, so buy and handle them wisely. Let them sit in a dry spot in the fridge for only a day or two before eating them. They’re ultra-sensitive to the cold, so don’t freeze them.

Nutrition Facts (5/6 cup): calories 64, total carbohydrate 5% (15 grams), dietary fiber 32% (8 grams), sugar 5 grams, protein 1 gram, vitamin A 1%, vitamin C 54%, calcium 3%, iron 5%.

Eat ’em because: Maybe they’re not the first berry on your list or the most popular at the picnic, but blackberries have an impressive list of nutrients. How’s two grams of protein, 50 percent of your daily supply of vitamin C and 32 percent of your fiber requirement, all in one cup? But that’s not all. Their anthocyanins help protect your heart, Keller says.

Look for: Berries with the deepest, most even color and a little sheen. Walk right past those with dents, bruises or broken druplets.

Serve it up: Like raspberries, these berries need a gentle touch when rinsing and preparing. Store them in the fridge for no more than three days and be sure to keep them dry.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup): calories 42, total carbohydrate 5% (14 grams), dietary fiber 31% (8 grams), sugar 7 grams, protein 2 grams, vitamin A 6%, vitamin C 50%; calcium 4%, iron 5%.

Kara Mayer Robinson is a freelance writer.