BY JENNIFER MOTL

Adding blueberries and strawberries to your breakfast may protect your memory and your heart, besides being downright delicious.

In June, strawberries and blueberries are ripe at Fredericksburg-area farms. Why waste money on imported so-called “superfruits” such as açai berries when there’s more research showing the health benefits of locally grown blueberries and strawberries?

Berries are easy to add to your morning meal in options from blueberry-sauced pancakes to parfaits. And if you’re watching your weight, eating more whole fruits is a proven strategy, as shown yet again in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Eating more fruit is a great goal—most Americans don’t eat anywhere close to the 3 to 5 cups
of fruits and veggies recommended by federal scientists at choose myplate.gov.

BERRIES GIVE YOU A BOOST

Although all fruits and veggies help your health, berries are particularly potent. Blueberries’ and strawberries’ gorgeous hues are due to anthocyanins. These natural pigments don’t just look pretty—they act  as protective antioxidants.

According to studies of about 150,000 nurses and doctors, those who ate the most berries had 8 percent lower blood pressure than berry avoiders. That sounds small, but any reduction in high blood pressure has big effects. That’s because high blood pressure is linked to strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and other problems.

A smaller study of middle-age Americans showed that a daily strawberry drink also reduced triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. This means strawberries may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Another study showed decreases in total and LDL cholesterol. And Chinese researchers found that a daily dose of powdered strawberries helped heal precancerous lesions in the throat.

Some of strawberries’ healing power may be due to their vitamin C content. A cup of fresh strawberries has 150 percent of your daily value for vitamin C, 49 calories and 3 grams of fiber.

Blueberries, meanwhile, have been shown to help folks with mild memory problems remember better, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More good news about blueberries:

  • Blueberry lovers had a 23 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, according to a recent study of more than 200,000 Americans.
  • Harvard researchers found that folks who ate blueberries twice weekly were far less likely to get diabetes than folks who ate blueberries less than once a week. That’s because blueberries make the body more sensitive to insulin, according to Louisiana State University scientists. That may explain the lower risk of diabetes in folks who eat more blueberries.
  • Wild blueberries are slightly higher in fiber and antioxidants than farmed berries. And all blueberries are a source of resveratrol, the hearth-healthy compound that made red wine famous.
  • Cooking does not harm blueberries’ antioxidant superpowers, according to researchers at Washington Hospital Center.

EATING MORE BERRIES

If the research about strawberries and blueberries isn’t reason enough to eat them, the sheer flavor may convince you to dish up more berries. And berries are very affordable at this time of year.

If you’re trying to eat more berries, start at breakfast. On pancakes or toaster waffles, consider replacing the syrupy topping with berry sauce. Purée a handful of berries in your blender, then top the waffles with the fresh berry sauce and garnish with a handful of whole strawberries or blueberries.

If you’d like to spice things up, try stirring a dash of cinnamon or lime zest into blueberry sauce. Strawberry sauce pairs well with lemon zest.

Berries also are great in parfaits. In a glass dish, layer juicy strawberries and blueberries with Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese and walnuts for a breakfast as pretty as it is healthy. Drizzle with a teaspoon or two of honey if you like.

Berries also are delicious stirred into your favorite whole-grain muffin batter. If you use frozen berries, no need to thaw them—just allow the muffins to bake 3 to 5 minutes longer than usual.

Berries also make wonderful smoothies. In hot weather, use frozen berries for an ice-creamy feel. Otherwise, fresh berries work fine.

Try combining in your blender one cup of blueberries or strawberries with a cup of plain yogurt, half a teaspoon of cinnamon and two tablespoons of almond butter. This makes a colorful, high-protein, high-fiber breakfast drink.
Start your day with delicious berries, and you’re getting a head start on your health.

Jennifer Motl is a registered dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now lives in Wisconsin. Jennifer Motl welcomes reader questions via her website, brighteating.com, or by email at healthyliving@freelancestar.com.