We know apples, bananas, and oranges are a lot easier to pack as on-the-go snacks, but it’s well worth the extra effort to make sure you’re snacking on berries instead. These tender fruits get their red and blue coloring from a group of polyphenols called anthocyanins--tiny but mighty compounds that make berries your best choice if you’re looking to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
Blueberries may be especially powerful in the fight against obesity. Extracts of these color-forming compounds actually blocked the formation of new fat cells according to research presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting for the American Society for Nutrition. The researcher found dose-dependent calming of new fat cell formation, with the highest dosage of these compounds resulting in a 73% decrease. The research was conducted on cells from mice, but given past findings on the ability of blueberries to lower bad cholesterol, potentially fight Alzheimer's, and help reduce blood pressure, there’s hope that the findings hold true in future human trials. So watch out, belly, here come the berries!
Berries are easy and cheap enough to buy in bulk during the summer months when they’re in season, but fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries aren’t so practical in the colder months. Stock up on the savings during the warmer season by buying fresh, but don’t feel bad about turning to frozen packages as the temperature drops. Just make sure you’re checking that the packages in your local grocery store are just the berries themselves and don’t include any added sugar, which can derail your diet with unexpected loads of sugar and calories.
If mixed frozen berries aren’t available, your best bet is the humble blueberry. Packages can occasionally see sales, and this berry actually flourishes with the frozen treatment. Those same compounds that give the berries their brilliant hue--and many of their health benefits--are found in the skin of the berry. When the fruits are frozen, ice crystals form in the skin and break up the structure of the berry that holds these antioxidants. Sounds bad, but this process has a very real benefit for you: More of these health-boosting compounds are available for your body to absorb! Plus, frozen blueberries are like tiny little fruit popsicles and can quash sugar cravings before they become unbearable. One half-cup is a perfect snack-sized portion.
Just avoid baking the delicate berries, if you want to reap the most rewards! Although some of their compounds increase when exposed to this kind of heat, their anthocyanin levels dropped by 10 to 21 percent according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
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