July Food of the Month: Raspberries

Summer is officially upon us, what better time to enjoy all the fresh seasonal fruits. Raspberries are one of the berries that always come to mind when I think of the warmer months. Not only are they deliciously sweet but they also have an impressive nutritional profile. One cup of raspberries comes in at 64 calories with a whopping 8 grams of fiber, over 30% of the daily value (DV). The high fiber content makes for an ideal snack for those looking to lose weight or lower cholesterol levels. 

Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, and are also considered good sources of copper, vitamin K, biotin, vitamin E, folate, magnesium and potassium. In addition to their striking vitamin and mineral content, these tiny fruit are loaded with an assortment of beneficial phytonutrients.

Health Benefits:

  • Cancer Prevention: Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in the formation of cancer and degenerative diseases such as heart disease.  Antioxidants help the body fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Anthocyanins and ellagitannins are two of the major antioxidant phytochemicals found in raspberries. Additionally, raspberries score high on the ORAC scale, which measures the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity in foods. The powerful antioxidants found in raspberries help to neutralize the damage caused by free radicals and potentially slow down progression of disease.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation: Raspberries are a low glycemic fruit. The low sugar and high fiber content make them an excellent choice for diabetics or those monitoring their blood sugar levels.  Additionally, raspberry extracts are believed to help regulate blood glucose levels by inhibiting the alpha- glucosidase enzyme that breaks down starches into simple sugars, preventing a surge of sugar released into the blood stream.

Although they are typically known for their vibrant red color, raspberries can also be found in black and gold. Black raspberries are not the same as blackberries, a common misconception. In fact, black raspberries contain the same health protecting properties as red raspberries, but have higher amounts of beneficial anthocynanins, which contributes to their intense dark color.

Raspberries are highly perishable and should be eaten within a couple days of purchase. They should be kept unwashed in their container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Since they are very delicate, look for berries that are firm and show little sign of bruising or mold.

While raspberries are primarily available midsummer, they can be enjoyed year round. Frozen raspberries are a great alternative and just as nutritious as their fresh counterpart. Berries are harvested at their peak and frozen, ensuring maximum vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can always freeze fresh berries yourself. Simply spread a single layer on a tray and place in the freezer until hardened. Transfer berries to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container and store for up to 1 year.

Fresh raspberries are great by themselves for a snack or stirred into yogurt with nuts and dark chocolate chips for a sweet treat. I try to get creative and incorporate them in a variety of ways. Surprisingly, raspberries can also be used in a side dish. Here’s a recipe that is easy to prepare and a perfect accompaniment to any summer meal.

Quinoa Pilaf with Raspberries

(Yields 4 servings) 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cups quinoa
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cups finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cups dried currants
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1 1/3 cups) raspberries

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth, quinoa and pepper. Bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Fold parsley, walnuts, currants and raspberries gently into hot quinoa. Let stand covered 5 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature and enjoy!

 

Sources:

http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2012/september-19-2012/berries-sweetening-cancer.html

http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/foodsthatfightcancer_berries.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=39

http://www.driscolls.com/recipes/view/2773/Quinoa-Pilaf-with-Raspberries

http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t–836/all-about-raspberries.asp

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