What’s something you can snack on that’s a) yummy, because, of course taste comes first, and b) easy to pull together, because when you want a snack you and it now, and c) healthy. Maybe even ridiculously healthy. Like, if you ate more of these foods your nutrient density and overall health would likely improve. That’s what we’re talking about this week on the podcast. I call ‘em power snacks.
My hope is that 5 power snacks will help you answer the age-old question of, what should I eat? Or even more daunting, what should I buy at the grocery store?
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The first super satisfying and fortifying snack we’re covering is…. Berries.
All kinds of berries. Strawberries. Blueberries. Raspberries. Blackberries. Gooseberries. Mulberries.
Why are berries a power snack?
Of course, they’re delicious. They’re naturally sweet and feel like a treat, but they’re actually packed with a lot of very good for you things, including:
Let’s face it. We all probably could stand to get more fiber, which promotes detoxification, feeds your good gut bacteria, keeps you regular, helps you feel full. Berries get most of their fiber from their seeds, which are embedded within the fruit, and that fiber helps slow the absorption of any natural sugars in your berries. That means berries–which aren’t all that naturally sweet when compared to say, grapes or a banana–are low-carb and low glycemic.
This is in contrast to high-sugar fruits, including mango, bananas, and grapes, which can cause a spike in your blood sugar because not only do they have more natural sugar, they also have less fiber. So if you want to enjoy fruit with a minimal impact on your blood sugar–whether because you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, or you’re trying to live low-carb or follow the ketogenic diet–berries are a good fruit choice.
What really makes berries sing, nutritionally, are their high levels of antioxidants
Those deep berry colors mean they are chockablock in polyphenols, which are plant-based chemicals that boost immunity and heart health. Blueberries, for example, are rich in the polyphenols anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, ellagic acid, and quercetin. In addition to tamping down inflammation, these phytochemicals are all nourishing to your genes, as they help regulate your genetic expression–meaning, they help your good genes, like those that fight tumors, stay on and keep your bad genes, that contribute to inflammation, stay off. Berries really are like mini multi-vitamins, and eating a variety of them only increases the number of polyphenols you ingest, which helps cover your nutritional bases.
Other reasons to love berries:
- Of course fresh berries are the height of flavor, but if they’re not available, frozen berries are great, too, meaning that berries are accessible all year round. YAnd if you buy berries and they are starting to go past their prime, give them a rinse and toss them in a sealed bag in the freezer; they’re still great for smoothies.
- You can go pick berries yourself–it makes for a great afternoon of movement and a fun yearly ritual. You do have to save some time to clean and do something with all those berries. I typically wash and freeze most of them so that we can use them in smoothies throughout the year. That way, I don’t have to worry about them slowly withering in the fridge after we’ve gotten sick of them. I find the best way to freeze them is to wash them, let them dry a little bit in a colander, then spread them out in an even layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them first on the cookie sheet, then put them in a ziploc back, so that they don’t freeze together in one big lump. Also, frozen blueberries right out of the bag make a great snack. They will turn your mouth and fingers temporarily purple, but its totally worth it.
- Most berries are really easy to grow, especially raspberries. They are survivors, and can withstand even the most haphazard gardener. Although, warning: they are invasive, and will slowly advance across your yard like a glacier if you don’t keep pulling up the offshoots.
- And, kids love them. If you’ve ever lamented that your kids don’t eat enough fresh foods, give them some more berries. Better yet, take them berry picking.
Here are 5 ways to snack on berries:
- Well, first of all, straight up on their own. A couple handful of berries are more than just a great portable snack. It’s like communing with summer. Even if you are eating frozen blueberries on their own in winter because there are no berries in season anywhere near you, it’s still like eating little gobs of sunshine.
- One top of a little yogurt or even cottage cheese. I am totally rediscovering cottage cheese after not having it for what is probably decades. Why? I’m not sure. But a cup of cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon and some berries on top–awesome snack or breakfast.
- If you want to get fancy with it, you can make your own sorbet–all you need are two cups of partially thawed frozen blueberries and a high-speed blender.
- Or, put some cold sliced strawberries in a bowl and then pour a little bit of cream or half and half over them and eat them with a spoon. It tastes very ooh la la but it is dead simple to make, as Jamie Oliver might say. This would be good with any cold berry.
- They also make delicious smoothies. Here’s my current smoothie recipe, that I have to give credit to my local juice bar, Wildflour, for: Half a frozen banana, about a cup of frozen blueberries, two handfuls of fresh spinach, a big spoonful of almond butter, and just enough almond milk to make it blendable–we like an ice cream-like consistency in our house. And I mean, yum.
So, whaddya think?
Is there a berry that’s calling your name after listening to this episode that you want to add to your grocery list? Do you want to try blueberry sorbet, or strawberries and cream, or maybe that awesome smoothie? Is there some place you might be able to go berry picking this weekend?
Come back tomorrow when I’m talking about an unexpected power snack that helps satisfy your cravings for intense flavors (that might otherwise get you reaching for flavored chips) AND offers probiotics that support your gut health and your mental health.