With just 40 calories in a ½-cup serving, blueberries offer a great lineup of nutrients like potassium and iron, as well as being an excellent source of Vitamin C. And let's not forget that blueberries also provide dietary fiber, two grams in each ½-cup serving which about equals the amount of fiber in a slice of whole wheat bread.
Health Magazine has recently listed blueberries as the top source of antioxidant activity in a Guide to 50 Super Foods. The magazine added, “Blueberries are a particularly rich source of antioxidants called anthocyanins (also contained in apples, grapes, blackberries, radishes, and red cabbage). Several studies suggest anthocyanins discourage blood clots from forming, warding off heart attacks. They also appear to improve night vision and to slow macular degeneration by strengthening tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye.”
Another big backer of blueberries includes Prevention Magazine. “Recent studies even suggest that blueberries may actually reverse the decline in memory that can occur with aging,” noted the nationwide publication. “Here's the scoop: among all the popular fresh fruits and vegetables, blueberries are number one in total antioxidant power. Besides antioxidants, blueberries contain condensed tannins that help prevent urinary tract infections.”
“In general, blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables we have studied,” concluded Dr. Ronald Prior in a noted 1998 research study (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 46, no. 7) conducted at Tufts University. Because of the good news to date, researchers will go on to study the health benefits of blueberries long into the future since there is much left to know and confirm. “In the meantime,” admitted Dr. Prior, “I'm eating blueberries every day.”
Did you know?:
- Blueberries were prominent in Russian folk medicine, used as a preventative measure and cure for flux and other abdominal problems.
- Native Americans used blueberry leaves in medicinal teas thought to be good for the blood and blueberry juice was used to treat coughs.
- The blueberry is still prized for its antioxidant health benefits and as a laxative, as well as other folk remedies.
- During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots consumed bilberries (a blueberry relative), which purportedly improved their night vision. Later studies show a sound basis for this practice because blueberries are high in bioflavonoids which are used by the rods in the eye for night vision.
- Blueberries rank as the number one fruit provider of antioxidants. They are also high in iron.
Blueberry Selection and Storage:
- Blueberries are available in many forms and sizes, including canned, dried, frozen and pureed as well as fresh.
- Fresh blueberries are in their prime from June through August. Select berries that are completely blue, with no tinge of red. That natural shimmery silver coating you see on blueberries is desirable as it is a natural protectant.
- Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Avoid soft, watery or moldy blueberries. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.
- Keep blueberries refrigerated, unwashed, in a rigid container covered with clear wrap. They should last up to two weeks if they are freshly-picked. Water on fresh blueberries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigerating, and avoid those at your grocer's that are exposed to those mist sprayers used to keep greens fresh.
- Blueberries are highly perishable so do try to use them as soon as possible.
- Blueberries are an excellent candidate for freezing. After thawing, they are only slightly less bright and juicy as in their original harvest state. Do not wash them before freezing as the water will cause the skins to become tough. Rinse after thawing and before eating.
- To freeze for future cooking, place the berries in a rigid covered container with one inch of space for expansion. If you plan on serving them in the future in their thawed, uncooked state, pack them in a syrup made of 4 cups water plus 3 cups sugar, seal and freeze. For crushed or pureed blueberries, add 1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar for each quart.
- Frozen blueberries will keep for a year at 0 degrees F. Blueberries are also easily canned or dried at home.
For easy reference, the list from many sources of reported blueberry benefits includes:
- improved vision
- clearing arteries
- more antioxidants for disease protection
- strengthening blood vessels
- enhanced memory
- stopping urinary tract infections
- reversing age-related physical and mental declines
- promoting weight control.
When you have blueberries in the fridge, pantry or freezer, you can easily add flavor, color and nutrients to so many of your favorite dishes.
Here are a few suggestions to get your blueberry juices flowing:
- Whirl fresh or frozen blueberries in your morning smoothie and sprinkle them on cereal.
- Heat blueberries in maple syrup to pour on pancakes or waffles.
- Sprinkle dried blueberries on chicken salad.
- Perk up your yogurt snack with a handful of blueberries.
- Shake up your trail mix with dried blueberries.
- Substitute dried blueberries when a recipe calls for raisins.
- Add blueberries to a peanut butter sandwich and call it a PB-and-BB.
- Stir blueberry juice into iced tea or lemonade.
- Freeze blueberries and blueberry juice in ice cube trays to add to juice.
Want more ideas and recipes? The Oregon Blueberry website has a wealth of delicious recipes: http://www.oregonblueberry.com/recipes.html