Berry season has begun in Vermont and with the sudden change to hot temperatures, they are ripening as fast as folks can pick 'em. Of all the fruit choices we have, berries have the most antioxidant punch. They are lower on the glycemic index and are great choices for superfood snacks, smoothie and salad additions.
It is very important to purchase berries locally from an organic farm. Strawberries, for instance, are #1 on the World Health Organization's Dirty Dozen list; meaning that if they are not organic, they carry the most toxins of all the fruits and vegetables, absorbing ground toxins as well as fertilizer and insect treatments more than any of the others. Most important to get local berries in season when they are at prime ripeness and thus, prime nutritional value. Purchased in grocery stores, they are picked ahead of ripeness for shipping. The other alternative, especially in colder climates, is to get fresh frozen organic. These are picked at proper ripeness and then frozen to retain all their antioxidant and health impact.
We love having our strawberries ready for the Fourth of July, but once they've come and gone, no need to wait until next year's crop. Freezing our own is a great way to have fresh berries into winter and beyond. They are also available to put into your morning smoothie drinks, continuing to add to the antioxidant content every day. They help keep free radicals, which are unstable, inflammatory molecules that can damage cells. Berries help protect your cells and reduce risk of disease. Berries can improve blood sugar levels or reduce levels in people with insulin resistance. One reason is because they are full of good water soluble fiber which reduces the calorie content, slows food digestion for fuller feeling and better digestion.
Berries contain a number of highly nutritive vitamins and minerals. Not only do they help reduce inflammation but may reduce risk of heart disease as well as other health problems. Berries help to lower cholesterol. According to Pubmed a controlled study of obese people, those eating 50 grams of blueberries for 8 weeks had a 28% reduction in oxidized LDL levels.
Berries help contribute to healthy skin and reduce some forms of cancer as they reduce tumor growth factor. They are able to improve and protect blood vessels from clotting and high blood pressure. They are able to be incorporated into almost all types of specialty diets. Thus berries are a great addition to our food intake for overall improved health with continued use.
Strawberries are high in Vitamin C & folates, minerals manganese, potassium, iodine, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and copper. Also contain polyphenols like flavinoids, lignans and tannins that help prevent DNA damage and lower cholesterol.
Blueberries contain a number of bioactive compounds including polyphenols, phenolic acid and stilbene derivatives. They are a high source of soluble fiber. They reduce risk of coronary, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease.
Raspberries contain essential minerals, vitamins, dietary fiber, potassium, and fatty acids. Another excellent source of vitamin C they help keep elasticity in our blood vessels and lower cholesterol. Raspberries in any form - fruit or tea leaf also strengthens and supports the uterus and female hormones, especially during pregnancy.
Blackberries are a source of minerals, Vitamin A & B, calcium. Cultivated in Europe for thousands of years, they are known for their medicinal properties. The juice has been used to treat infections of the mouth and eye. They have been known to play a role in reducing cancer, cardiovascular complications and other related disease.
As you can see, not only do berries fit any meal or dessert menu with beautiful color, but they supply hidden health secrets to keep our quality of life strong. Find ways to add these power packed foods into your diets. Fresh, frozen or dried, they should become some of our staples of health.
Some of the information in this article is a synopsis of the chapters on grains and beans in the book,
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Complementary Proteins - Grains and Beans
The major benefit of combining beans and grains comes from their amino acid contents. Both
beans and grains are examples of incomplete protein -- they contain some, but not all, of the
essential amino acids. They also represent complementary proteins, which means that when
you consume beans and grains together, their complementary amino acid contents provide
your body with all the essential amino acids. For example, many grains are deficient in the
essential amino acid lysine, a nutrient found in beans. Conversely, many beans contain only
small amounts of methionine, an amino acid found in larger supply in grains.
As some of you may know, eating grains, especially for someone with gluten allergies, may not
be such a good choice for food. And eating beans has always come with the picture of
excessive gas emissions at inopportune moments. If we look at the history of ancient
civilizations that use beans and/or grains as staples for survival, you will find that they would
soak them for 24 to 72 hours before cooking them and that the two above problems did not
One of the reasons that grains cause gluten sensitivities, irritated and inflamed bowels is
because they contain phytic acid. Untreated phytic acid combines with calcium, magnesium,
copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract and blocks their absorption. A diet high in
unfermented whole grains can cause serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss over time.
Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other organisms to break down and neutralize phytic
acid. Matter of fact, soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will improve their
nutritional benefits. Soaking also partially breaks down gluten proteins into simpler, easy to
Glutenous grains are oats, rye, barley, teff, spelt, and wheat and should definitely be soaked.
Rice and millet do not contain gluten and do not necessarily need soaking, but should be
cooked slowly for 2 hours in a highly gelatinous mineral broth to neutralize phytates. Quinoa,
chia and buckwheat are not technically grains, but seeds and are an easy source of non-
glutenous grain substitute without soaking. The nice thing about these as a grain substitute is
that they take very little liquid to prepare and are a great survival food with amazing nutrient
content, and light enough to carry in a backpack.
Now, lets talk about beans. Traditional bean eaters of the world, cook their legumes with
great intent. Different cultures soak in alkaline waters, some in acidic waters. Always soaked
for at least 24 hours, some are rinsed and more water added to soak again. These processes
are done to ensure that the beans will be fully digestible and nutrients can be fully absorbed;
neutralizing phytic acid and breaking down complex sugars. Canned beans, on the other hand,
do not break down the phytate content.
According to your own tastes and needs, add any grain to any bean and you have a complete
meal. It wouldn't hurt to have some dried beans and grains set aside in airtight glass jars for
times of power outages and food survival.
The number of dishes that can be made from these two staples is unending. Google any
ethnic grain or bean recipes and you will find their unique style and variety to fit any
tastebuds. From French bean casserole to spicey Mexican refried beans and taco fixings; to
Mideastern Persian black-eyed beans or Falafels made with Chickpeas; there is a cornucopia
of dishes that can satisfy and provide a variety of healthy non meat based meals.
Run out of power at your house? There is a great bread recipe from the Near East called
Zarathustra Bread. These are examples of the small loaves that were carried in the pockets of
dessert nomads as they traveled great distances in the hot, dry sands. This bread cooks slowly
in an oven, food dryer or the hot sun. See the Recipe below.
Sally's cookbook, mentioned above is full of a numerous variety of ethnic dishes with grains
and beans prepared as mentioned above. Another cookbook that you might find interesting is
The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean, by Cheryl & Mel London. There is a chapter on each grain or bean, a history of where it originated, its nutritional values, and a few recipes
containing that particular food.
This bread can be made with little or no heat, it can be cooked in hot sun or
dehydrator, made into small loaves or thinned out for crackers. The perfect survival
food. You can find recipes like this one in Nourishing Traditions.
Makes 10 small loaves
3 C soft wheat berries
1/4 C nonirradiated sesame seeds (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 C currants or raisins (optional)
Place wheat berries and seeds in a bowl covered with water and leave in a warm, dark
place for 24 hours. Pour out water, replenish and leave another 24 hours. Test
berries to see if they are soft. If they are still hard when pinched, replace water and
leave another 24 hours.
Pour off water, transfer berries with slotted spoon to food processor and process with
salt until smooth. Add optional raisins and pulse a few more times.
Form into balls and flatten slightly. Place on a stainless steel baking sheet brushed
with olive oil or butter and bake about 12 hour in a 150 degree oven, turning after
about 6 hours. If you live in a hot, dry, climate, you can bake these in the sun.
Variation: Essene Bread
Flatten the balls into flat rounds, about 1/4 inch thick. Bake on lowest oven heat, in a
dehydrator or, in hot, dry climates in the sun, turning once.
Variation: Essene Crackers
Brush two stainless steel cookie sheets with olive oil or butter and use a rolling pin to
flatten dough into thin sheets on the pans. Bake in 150 degree oven or in a
dehydrator until crisp. Break up into crackers.
Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.