Berry Power!

Berry shortcake is a Fourth of July favorite. Did you know these delicious little fruits are full of health-protective nutrients?

Berries are a sweet indulgence that not only pamper our palate, but also promote good health. The naturally occurring nutrients found in blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries offer benefits for the heart, protect against several types of cancer, and may even help control diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Researchers from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital recently demonstrated that a diet rich in berries helps keep our brains sharp as we grow older. The study, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, found that a high intake of berries over time can delay memory decline by 2.5 years. Berries are rich in antioxidants, compounds that improve overall health. These include anthocyanins, the substances that give berries their color—and are especially potent antioxidants.

The study used the data from the Nurses' Health Study, which has examined the health of 121,000 female registered nurses since 1976. Brigham and Women's Hospital researcher Elizabeth Devore explains, "What makes our study unique is the amount of data we analyzed over such a long period of time. No other berry study has been conducted on such a large scale."

Devore reports, "Among women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week, we saw a modest reduction in memory decline. This effect appears to be attainable with relatively simple dietary modifications." She adds, "Our findings have significant public health implications, as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to reduce memory decline in older adults."

Now that they are in season and abundant, add more berries to your weekly menu! Top off your cereal with a half cup of the berries of your choice … create a beautiful mixed-berry fruit salad … add berries to low-fat yogurt … or pack a bagful in your lunchbox. For a delectable summer dessert, try this recipe from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Long a promoter of the health benefits of berries, AICR dietitians tell us that these fruits contain cancer-protective substances, including those same anthocyanins that protect the brain. The AICR test kitchen offers delicious recipes, including this one for a berry shortcake tailored to be healthier than the standard version. Enjoy!

Shortcake Biscuits With Berries

  • Canola oil spray
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries
  • 1 pt. fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. sugar for the biscuits, plus more for the berries, according to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup fat-free (skim) milk
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened slightly (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray nonstick cookie sheet with oil spray. Set aside.
  2. Hull strawberries and slice into bowl. Add fresh blueberries. Mix in orange juice and sugar to taste. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. In medium bowl, mix together flours, salt, baking powder and sugar. Use pastry blender or fork to cut butter and oil into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk all at once.
  4. Stir until it is just incorporated and there are no lumps.
  5. Form 8 biscuits by dropping well-rounded quarter cups onto cookie sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are done. (Use toothpick to test centers.) Cool on wire rack.
  6. Use serrated knife to gently slice off top third of each biscuit. Top with some berries and juice. Lay top third of biscuit on berries. Top with more berries and juice. Place remaining berries around each biscuit. Garnish with frozen yogurt, if using, and serve.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 270 calories, 11 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 41 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 4 g. dietary fiber, 405 mg. sodium.

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