Berry Bonanza: sweet stuff

By Brenna O’Dea

We are already headed into our second week of June. Crazy, right? The sun keeps getting hotter and hotter and we are getting hungrier and hungrier. One of my absolute favorite childhood memories is going blueberry picking. Well…not so much the picking part…but the EATING part. I would pick as many as my little hands could handle, but the real fun came as I followed the older family members around, ya know, helping them out, making sure their buckets didn’t get too heavy by eating nearly every berry they dropped in. As you might have guessed, Blueberries for Sal was one of my favorite books. I admired her dedication, eating every single blueberry she picked, right there on the spot, not letting a single one go to waste.

But why stop at blueberries? Berry season is just around the river bend, and we could not be more excited. Sweet little gems of all colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors are coming soon to a farmer’s market near YOU! No, this is not an infomercial, we are just really, really excited.

We could probably go on for hours about the health benefits of all the berries under the sun, but we won’t. We’ll just give you one of the MANY perks of this produce: the effect that eating berries can have on the brain. That’s right, the BRAIN. An incredibly important part of the body that we often forget about. I mean, we don’t forget about it completely, it’s always there, helping us do everything everyday. But when we think about the food we eat, the food we feed our children, we often only think about how that food impacts the rest of our bodies. Our muscles, our skin, our hair. Let’s not forget about the insides of those beautiful bodies! We can eat plenty of protein to sustain us in those long gym sessions, but if we not feed our brains properly, we might just end up falling flat on our faces when that treadmill starts to speed up.

When we think about fueling up for activity, whether it is a long day in the office or outside in the sun, we might jump right to the boring stuff, the less-than-delicious stuff. Green vegetables and nothing else. Nuts and seeds and more nuts and seeds. Of course we LOVE our green veggies and plant-based protein sources, but come on it’s summer, we cannot forget about dessert. Especially when that dessert is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, flavanoids…flavanols…you get the idea. Here are just a few fabulous berry-based recipes to start off summer on the right foot, the sweet foot.

This super simple Strawberry Sunflower Smoothie requires only FIVE ingredients (plus a couple ice cubes) and it will keep you cool and calm all summer long. Sunflower seeds are loaded with lovely nutrients, including magnesium, known to help you relax and rest easy all through the night. Combined with sweet strawberries, beautiful banana, a dollop of yogurt, and a splash of milk, this sun-butter smoothie will get slurped up in seconds. Plus, not only is this baby naturally nut free, it can be made dairy free too. Perfect for playdates with anyone and everyone, no matter what their dietary differences.

These Simple Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Pops will be a popular after school snack time treat, we can pretty much guarantee it. Unless your little ones really really really don’t like blueberries…but even so, you can sub in any berry they want and make it more to their liking! If you thought that five ingredient smoothie was easy, these THREE ingredient popsicles will make your day. Blend up your blueberries, Greek yogurt, and maple syrup for extra sweetness, and there ya go, you’ll have a freezer full of love for a week…or at least a day, these pops will go quick.

Swap out those stale old raisins for some farmer’s market fresh raspberries in these ravishing red Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies! Full of fiber from the oats, and sweetened with inflammation fighting honey, these cookies aren’t really cookies at all…okay, they totally are, but they are also totally healthier than most granola bars or cereals you will find out there. Those things can be loaded with hidden, or not so hidden sugars, and they will leave you crashing and fighting cravings for the rest of the day. These cookies are definitely something sweet, but they will also keep you full and focused for the rest of your afternoon or evening. Not only can honey fight off inflammation, it can keep allergies at bay as well. It is no miracle sweetener, but because honey contains trace amounts of bee pollen, it can actually build up your tolerance to those nasty allergy triggers and calm all that coughing and sneezing.

Gear up for the good eats coming your way this summer. Whether your pantry is bursting with specialty superfoods or simple pleasures (like fresh berries!) this season is sure to be one of the most delicious ones yet. All those rainy days are finally going to pay off in a big DELICIOUS way.

(Image by flickr member pixelpark licensed under Creative Commons)

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