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Healthiest Way to Enjoy Blueberries, with Recipes

Healthiest ways to enjoy blueberries

My friend Pat loves to make big muffins brimming with juicy blueberries. Whenever she eats the muffins, she insists they are one of the healthiest ways to enjoy these summer fruits. However, a new study indicates that eating blueberries in muffins, pies, and other cooked foods changes the health benefits of the fruit.

When you pop fresh blueberries into your mouth, you can literally feel their nutritional goodness as your teeth break through the skin. The health benefits of the polyphenols (e.g., anthocyanins, flavonols, phenolic acids, procyanidin) in blueberries have been and continue to be studied, and the findings suggest these phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antimicrobial advantages. They even may help with weight loss efforts and lowering cholesterol.

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If you want to reap the maximum benefits of these nutrients, however, a new study appearing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicates that you should stick with fresh blueberries rather than those that are baked or cooked. When the team, led by Ana Rodriguez-Mateos of the University of Dusseldorf, Germany, tested the impact of cooking, proving (when the dough rises), and baking on the polyphenol content of the berries, they discovered the following:

  • Anthocyanin levels declined by 10 to 21 percent
  • Some procyanidin levels rose while other declined
  • Phenolic acid levels increased
  • Flavonol levels (e.g., caffeic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin) remained the same while chlorogenic acid levels rose

The authors suggested that yeast present in baked goods may have a beneficial effect on some polyphenols.

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Scientists do not yet know how to retain the excellent polyphenols levels present in fresh blueberries when the fruits are used in baked or cooked foods. For now, eating fresh blueberries appears to be the healthiest way to enjoy these tasty fruits. Pat, however, says she will continue to bake her muffins and enjoy some fresh blueberries along with them!

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Fresh blueberry recipes
Here are two delicious ways to enjoy the fresh taste of blueberries.

Blueberry salsa
3 cups fresh blueberries, mashed
¼ cup each chopped red and yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¼ cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt as needed
Combine all the ingredients except the salt, mix well, and add salt as desired. Chill for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Shake
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup nonfat vanilla soy yogurt
1 cup non-fat soy, rice, or almond milk
Process all ingredients in a blender or food processor and serve.

Rodriguez-Mateos A et al. Impact of cooking, proving, and baking on the (poly)phenol content of wild blueberry. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 Oct. DOI:10.1021.jf403366q