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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bodacious Berries - 'Tis the Season!

Berries and other deliciously healthful fruits got a sudden bad rap when the Atkins trend held America’s dieters in its grip. But now as the fear of carbohydrates is starting to dissolve, I hope that dieters can once again enjoy the many pleasures and benefits of seasonal, fresh organic fruits, especially berries of all kinds.

Berries top the list of natural cancer and disease fighters. They contains large amounts of anti-oxidants, which keep free-radicals in check.

I've heard of free-radicals, but what are they again?

These are unstable oxygen molecules floating around in the body; "unstable" meaning that they don't really have anywhere to go or any other companion molecules to hang out with. And just like people, these solitary molecules will naturally go out looking for someone to connect with. As soon as they see another friendly oxygen molecule that they want to meet, they'll grab it away from the healthy cell that it was once attached to.

This process is called oxidation, and when imbalanced, can cause disease in many forms. You can see what oxidation does to an avocado or an apple when it is left out for several hours. When oxidation occurs inside the body, a similar process happens. You might not turn brown, but it is none-the-less damaging to the healthy cells, tissues and systems in the body.

"Anti"-oxidants, then, are the good guys that offer up oxygen molecules to the free radicals so they don’t get lonely and go stealing from healthy cells. This, in turn, creates cellular harmony in the body.

Oxidation and an over abundance of free radicals is brought on by many factors. Stress, polution, drugs, pesticides and radiation are just a few. With today’s environment and stress levels, it would behoove us not only to decrease our total load of stress and exposure, but to also increase our intake of foods and supplements rich in vital anti-oxidants.

Fortunately, most anti-oxidant rich foods are easy to detect. The vast majority of them are deep red, purple, orange and dark green in color. In most cases, the deeper the hue, the deeper the level of anti-oxidants in the food.

So don’t be afraid to take advantage of nature’s perfect foods this summer; blueberries, blackberries and strawberries should be staples throughout the growing season. Just remember that it is not only humans who love to devour these sumptuous summer fruits; molds, insects, birds and rodents eat them too, and they often head the list of the most chemically sprayed produce. So buy organic when you can and visit your local farmer's market every week.

Fresh Berries with Rosemary Almond Cream (the works and vegan versions)
Braised Tempeh (or chicken) with Blueberry Sauce


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