Blueberries are hopefully already on the list of superfoods incorporated into your weekly diet. Juicy and sweet, blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants and lower blood pressure, and 2/3 cup of these gems delivers 14 percent of your daily fiber. Recent studies also show they may reduce the risk of breast cancer, improve cardiovascular health and slow down cognitive decline in the elderly.
But don’t limit yourself to the magical blueberry. Berries from strawberries to chokeberries are excellent sources for antioxidants and polyphenols — micronutrients that research shows prevent degenerative diseases. Here are five berries you can try right now that pack a nutritious punch like the almighty blueberry.
Benefits: Native to China, these nutrient-dense berries have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine for their high levels of vitamin A, vitamin B and iron as well as powerful carotenoids, which preserve eyesight and prevent macular degeneration.
Taste: Raw, the goji berry may be a shock to the system. Some describe the flavor as bitter and others as a cross between a cherry and a cranberry, with more of the tartness of the latter. Dried, it is a bit sweeter and more pleasant-tasting. Stick with the dried.
Best In: Goji Berry Trail Mix
Benefits: The beautiful palm trees of the Amazon can be credited for the antioxidant-rich acai berry. While some believe the acai berry wards off arthritis and cancer, reduces cholesterol and speeds up weight loss, there is no evidence to support those claims. It is known, however, that the berries contain omega-9, a fatty acid and powerful anti-inflammatory, and have antioxidant levels higher than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries.
Taste: The berry is delicious on its own, and Brazilians guzzle its juice or use it in fruit smoothies. Often it’s sold as frozen pulp; adding a little sweetness with honey, agave or maple syrup will bring out the flavor.
Best In: Acai Breakfast Bowl
Benefits: Not a fan of the banana? Eat 10 mulberries and you’ll be getting 29 grams of potassium, which reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease, boosts bone density and ensures that your muscles, including your brain, are working properly.
Taste: A close cousin to the blackberry, mulberries are deep purple, red or white. When ripe, the mulberry is a balance of sweet and tart, but when overly ripe they lack flavor.
Best In: Mixed Berry Smoothie
Benefits: Like the other members of the berry family, the chokeberry has one of the highest levels of polyphenolic compounds, which scientists have praised.
Taste: The chokeberry, also known as aronia berry, grows wild in Montana and Idaho. The raw berries are not as appealing, which may be why they are used in ornamental decorations. But prepared in jams and jellies they are sweet goodness. If you can get your hands on fresh chokeberries, use them in a basic compote recipe and enjoy it with lean meats or as a spread on whole-grain toast.
Best In: Berry Compote
Benefits: The maqui berry is being hailed as the super-est of super berries for its score on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) test, which measures antioxidant levels. Its unusually high level of delphinidins — antioxidants believed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells — places it above all other berries. The berry is native to the Chilean rainforests, and it has anti-inflammatory properties that offer protection from damaging free radicals. Studies have shown maqui’s effects on insulin levels may also help prevent diabetes. Besides being beneficial for the inside of your body, this berry is touted for being rich in vitamin C, which contributes to maintaining healthy skin.
Taste: In the United States, the maqui berry is most commonly found in powder form — perfect for smoothies and adding a slight tartness. But the taste is hard to detect. If you get a chance to enjoy the berries fresh, you’ll find them to be bursting with sweetness.
Best In: Antioxidant Avenger