While strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are certainly the big brothers of the berry world, the universe of berries is far more diverse and exciting than you might think. Beyond the familiar favourites, there is a delightful array of lesser known, yet equally delicious and nutritious options. If you are looking to expand your berry horizons, these are some of the hidden gems:
- Jamun (Java Plum): This Indian berry offers a unique sweet and slightly tangy flavour. Packed with antioxidants, it’s not just a tasty treat but also a healthful one.
- Gooseberry: Known for its tartness, gooseberries are versatile and can be enjoyed fresh, pickled, or in jams. They are a great source of vitamin C and fiber.
- Jambul (Rose Apple): This tropical berry is not only refreshing but also highly nutritious with ample vitamin C and iron.
- Star Gooseberry: Star gooseberries are tiny but bursting with sour, tart, and mildly sweet flavour. They are a culinary delight, packed with vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Indian Jujube: The fruit offers a delightful blend of sweetness and crunchiness. It is a source of dietary fiber and various essential vitamins and minerals.
- Shahtoot (Red Mulberry): Sweet and juicy, with a deep red or blackish hue, shahtoot is a luscious berry that is perfect for snacking. It is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and resveratrol.
- Kokum: Hailing from the coastal regions of India, kokum is known for its tangy flavour and is often used in traditional Indian cuisine. It is not only delicious but also possesses medicinal properties.
Arya Manoj, an educational coordinator from New Jersey, USA, shares, “We have easy access to a bountiful supply of berries, especially blueberries, in our area, and we frequently savour them.”
Prasanna Rajendran, a retired central government employee from Cochin views exotic berries as a luxury but is open to trying them once or twice a month. Recently, she has started including more berries, particularly the local and seasonal varieties in her diet. She explains, “My nutritionist recommended them for their anti-ageing and cardiovascular health benefits. So, I make it a priority to include berries in my meals at least four times a week.”
What makes berries a superfood?
Berries are best known for their antioxidant properties. Kanishka Upadhyay, clinical nutritionist, New Delhi, says, “Additionally, berries are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with necessary vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. They support heart health, aid in weight management, and offer benefits for skin and brain health.”
She further says that the low-calorie and high-water content make them an excellent addition to a balanced diet.
A plethora of benefits
Each serving of fresh berries has about 50-75 calories—that is good news for people aiming for low-calorie diet. Berries also contain fiber and folate. According to Emi Koshy, nutritionist, Alappuzha, Kerala, fiber aids in weight loss, and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. “Folates can protect against cardiovascular disease and age-related memory loss. They contribute to the production of serotonin which may also help manage depression and improve your mood,” she says.
Koshi also says that berries rich in magnesium, and vitamins C and K are associated with combating free radical formation and reducing oxidative stress. Such fruits boost our immunity and foster good gut health, she informs.
Supports weight loss and other benefits
Besides antioxidants, berries are considered juicy foods, which means that they have more water content. Juicy foods are helpful for weight loss because they make you feel full faster by adding volume without adding many calories.
“Berries are rich in prebiotics, promoting the growth of beneficial bacterial colonies in our gut. Additionally, these elements contribute to improving insulin sensitivity, making them suitable for individuals with diabetes. They are good for muscle recovery and good to consume after a workout session,” says Koshi.
Ideal amount of berries
Depending on your daily caloric demands and nutritional objectives, a serving size recommendation ranges from roughly 1/2 to 1 cup (fresh or frozen) each day. While the fresh ones are low in calories, the dried variety have high caloric content. And that is where you must be mindful of the serving size.
Grapes: an alternative option
Grapes are a good alternative for individuals who do not have easy access to berries. Consuming 10 to 12 grapes or 2 native bananas daily can also offer similar health benefits, says Koshi.
When to consume berries
“Including them in breakfast or as a snack can provide a fiber-rich energy boost. Consuming berries post-workout can aid in muscle recovery as they contain anthocyanins, which enhance blood flow and reduce muscle inflammation. In addition, they are healthier alternatives for late-night snacking,” says Upadhyay.
While smoothies are a popular choice, Koshy warns that blending berries can increase their sugar content and decrease fibre content.
How can you make berries a part of everyday food?
Mix them in your oatmeal or berry-infused pancakes with complex carbohydrates for a balanced meal, says Koshy. If you do not like to have berries in their whole form, nutritionists share the following ways to include them in your diet.
- Make a smoothie with low-fat yoghurt and berries
- Sprinkle them on top of your yoghurt
- Incorporate them into salads
- Make berry-based jams and sauces
- Include them in your healthy trail mix of nuts and seeds
- Make popsicles with crushed berries
Read on our chef’s special breakfast-cereal recipe.
Precautions to consider
Berries are generally safe, but excessive consumption can lead to digestive issues due to their fiber content. “Some berries like blueberries and raspberries have high vitamin K, so if you are on blood-thinning medication, consult a nutritionist,” says Upadhyay.
Watch out for allergies too. People with diabetes should monitor blood sugar if eating berries in large quantities, and those with kidney issues should also limit intake due to high potassium content.
“When choosing dried berries, opt for products with minimal or no added sugars and preservatives. Do read food labels to make healthier choices,” Upadhyay warns.