There's many reasons to love summer. Although, I'm not a huge fan of the heat we get as the season progresses, I AM very thankful for the abundance of berries. I mean, have you seen how enormous strawberries get? How delightful and delicious. But it's not just strawberries.

There's sweet, but tart currants, succulent raspberries, and beautiful blueberries. And blackberries, some of which grow wild around our area. And hey, you can even go blueberry picking right here in East Texas. If you want a fun family outing, visit either Echo Springs Blueberry Farm or Tyler Blueberry Farm. Not to mention the plethora of farmers' markets we have now in East Texas.

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Obviously, we are fortunate and can get berries any time of year. However, during the summer, they are never better. Also the research shows that the nutritional quality if optimal when we eat foods at their seasonal peak.

Speaking of nutrition, berries are well-known to be filled with all of the phytonutrients that we need so much. They are good for heart health, too, and have anti-inflammatory effects. That can be very helpful for those who suffer from inflammation-related ailments such as arthritis or rheumatism.

A few helpful facts about these gorgeous gifts from nature: 

Although we LOVE fresh berries, the good news is that even frozen berries retain the majority of their antioxidants--unlike their cooked, processed, or canned counterparts. So, if you can't get fresh--go for frozen.

Raspberries, muscadine grapes, and blackberries are some of the most powerful cancer-fighting fruits. 

Studies show that diets that include three servings each day of berries could have a reduced risk of developing certain age-related degenerative ailments.

Want more? Healthline.com has a helpful list for your perusal.

Another thing I love about berries is--they're not just dessert. You can also incorporate them into salads and other savory dishes. I often chop strawberries and add them to a spinach salad with toasted sliced almonds and a little feta and lemon juice.

Other favorite ways to use them? Add a cup to waffle or pancake batter. Need a spunky side dish? Try flinging some blueberries with minced red onion, lime juice, and cilantro. Yum. Or just toss them into a blender with almond milk, spinach, and banana and make a smoothie. Obviously, they're also perfect just on their own.

What are you favorite ways to incorporate berries into your diet?