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Bring on the blackberries

I heard recently that food prices in the UK have increased by up to 60% in the last 3 years. That is? a pretty staggering statistic. So, if there?s healthy free food around, who wouldn?t want to take advantage of it? Well, there?s loads around in the great outdoors, so if at all possible, get outside and find yourself some wild food.

We are just coming in to blackberry season so now is the time to get out there and make the most of the free bounty to be found in our wonderful British hedgerows. Not only are blackberries wonderfully tasty and make the perfect ingredient for pies, crumbles, smoothies, ice creams and jellies, but they are packed with goodness too.

Nutritionally blackberries are a very valuable addition to the diet as a good handful of fresh blackberries certainly count as one of your ?five-a-day?. They have super high levels of vitamin C and tons of fibre, important for healthy cholesterol levels. They are also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, folic acid, magnesium, manganese, potassium and copper and are very low in fat.

Blackberries also score very highly on the ORAC scale which is a measure of the level of antioxidants in foods. Antioxidants are crucial for protection against cell damage which can lead to premature aging and a range of serious diseases.

Any fresh produce is best eaten as fresh as possible to provide maximum goodness. Keep refrigerated those berries that you do not eat immediately, or stew them gently with some cooking apples and freeze the stewed fruit to have on a cold winters day.

Purple berries, such as blackberries, blue berries and blackcurrants are all rich in antioxidants. These are essential to protect our tissues from damage and blackberries are especially effective in preventing oxidation of cells plus they have a very high LDL inhibitory effect, meaning they reduce the build-up of ?bad? cholesterol in the blood.

Blackberries are naturally high in sugar so don?t be tempted to add lots of extra sugar. If you do find them a little sharp, sprinkle on a small amount of Xylitol (now available in lots of supermarkets). This is a natural sweetener that is sweeter than normal sugar so you need less, and it has a much lower glycemic index, meaning the sugar is released slowly in to the blood stream rather than causing a sugar rush, followed by a sugar low.

Although blackberry and apple crumble is a great British dish and a firm favourite amongst many, crumbles tend to be very high in refined sugar and unhealthy fat, which rather negates the benefit of these wonderful berries.? Why not try my healthier option by replacing white flour with wholemeal flour, or better still, replace the flour all together with oats, half porridge and half jumbo. Reduce the sugar content by half and use xylitol, not caster or brown sugar. Rather than butter use coconut oil. Although high in saturated fat, coconut oil is very high in a medium chain fatty acid called lauric acid (high in mother?s milk). This is known to be anti-viral and antibacterial plus medium chain fatty acids, unlike long chain found in animal fats, allow the fat calories to be burnt up as energy very easily. It also adds a lovely subtle coconut flavour to the crumble.

But why not simply add a handful of fresh berries to your breakfast cereal or serve stewed apple and blackberries ?naked? with a good dollop of organic natural yogurt and a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds ? scrumptious!

My dog loves blackberries too, she just helps herself. Happy Picking!

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