A Berry Good Month: Berries and Diabetes

A happy July Fourth to everyone. July brings many good things: sun, swimming, vacation and…berries. In fact, July just happens to be National Berry Month. Berries are superstars in the world of fruit. They’re full of nutrition, easy on blood sugars, and they happen to taste delicious, too. Let’s take a closer look at two popular berries available this month and why you should include them in your summer meal planning.

Blueberries have been enjoyed by people for hundreds of years. To this day, they remain popular, coming in after strawberries as the most popular berry in the United States. These little blue delicacies are literally bursting with a number of phytonutrients (plant-derived chemicals that may have health benefits), including anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, flavonols, and resveratrol. Don’t worry — you don’t need to remember these terms, but what you should know is that these phytonutrients provide both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, making blueberries a true superstar.


Health benefits:
Improved blood lipids: Eating between 1–2 cups of blueberries daily can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) and help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Blood pressure: Studies show that folks with high blood pressure who routinely eat blueberries have both lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure; for people who have “normal” blood pressure, eating blueberries can help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Cognitive function: The antioxidants in blueberries may protect nerve cells from oxidative damage; studies in both lab animals and in humans show that eating blueberries (or drinking blueberry juice) may help to preserve memory and even slow down decline in other cognitive functions.

Blood sugar: Blueberries have a low glycemic index, meaning that they’re less likely to cause blood sugar spikes compared to other carbohydrate foods. Research shows that people with Type 2 diabetes who ate three servings of blueberries (and other low-glycemic-index fruits) had improvements in their HbA1c levels. Besides having a low glycemic index, blueberries are high in fiber, which may also help with blood sugar control.

Cancer: Thanks to their antioxidants (which include vitamins A and C) and folate content, blueberries may play a role in fighting off cancer.

Nutrition content:
One serving (1/2 cup) of fresh blueberries contains:

• 42 calories
• 11 grams of carbohydrate
• 2 grams of fiber
• 0 grams of fat

How to enjoy blueberries:
Blueberries taste great when eaten right out of your hand. They also make a great addition to your morning cereal or yogurt. Throw a handful into your lunch or dinner salad, as well.

Ranked as the most popular berry in the U.S., strawberries have been grown in many regions of the world. However, these delectable red berries were primarily enjoyed only by the wealthy until the mid-19th century, at which point railways were built, enabling more people to enjoy them as they were shipped farther. Like blueberries, strawberries are packed with antioxidants, making them as healthy as they are delicious.

Health benefits:
Heart health: Eating 1–2 cups of strawberries daily can help lower total and LDL cholesterol. And eating at least three servings a week lowered the risk of heart attack in women by 32% in one study.

Blood pressure: Thanks to their high potassium content, eating strawberries can help to lower blood pressure.

Stroke: Strawberries’ antioxidants can reduce the formation of blood clots that are linked with stroke.

Blood sugar: Studies show that eating strawberries, which have a low glycemic index, in quantities of at least 2–3 servings per week can lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In another study, eating one cup of strawberries along with table sugar reduced the blood glucose spike from the sugar. Another study found that eating 37 strawberries daily significantly lowered the risk of diabetes complications, such as kidney disease and neuropathy.

Cancer: Like blueberries, antioxidants in strawberries help to decrease inflammation and block the growth of tumors.

Nutrition content:
One serving (1 cup) of whole, fresh strawberries contains:

• 46 calories
• 11 grams of carbohydrate
• 3 grams of fiber
• 0 grams of fat

How to enjoy strawberries:
Strawberries are wonderful in cereal and yogurt. And who can resist a bite of strawberry shortcake? Why not try using these plump berries in a salsa? Chop up an onion and a bell pepper, and mix in some chopped cilantro and some rice wine vinegar. Add diced strawberries before serving. Serve as a dip or use it as a topping for chicken, beef, or fish.

Don’t forget to enjoy other types of berries this summer, too, such as raspberries and blackberries. All berries provide numerous health benefits, and thanks to their lower carb content and low glycemic index, they make a perfect addition to any diabetes eating plan.

After 31 years with Type 1 diabetes, Amy Mercer has learned to accept that the condition will limit her in some ways, and that’s OK. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in later today to learn more.