Add Some Blue to Your July 4th Feast; 7 Health Benefits of Blueberries
July was proclaimed National Blueberry Month by the USDA in 1999. The US produces over 90% of all the blueberries in the world – grown in 35 states! In terms of consumption, blueberries rank second only to strawberries in berry popularity.
Blueberries contain a multitude of phytonutrients including anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, flavonols, and resveratrol. All of these act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, offering a wide range of health benefits.
In studies, blueberry intake has been shown to help protect blood components (such as LDL cholesterol) from oxygen damage that could lead to eventual clogging of the blood vessels. Blueberries can also protect against high blood pressure. One study found that regular consumption provided an 8% reduced risk of hypertension.
In a study of older adults (average age 76 years), 12 weeks of daily blueberry consumption was associated with improved scores on two different tests of cognitive function, including memory. The antioxidant nutrients provide nerve cell protection, ensuring they work properly into our senior years.
Blood Sugar Benefits
Fruits, despite containing natural sugars, should not be avoided by people with diabetes. Blueberries, for example, have been shown to be a great dietary addition for diabetics, with study subjects showing an improvement in the regulation of blood sugar levels over a three-month period of time. Blueberries are considered “Low GI”, meaning they rank on the Glycemic Index with a score between 40 and 53 – largely due to their high fiber content (nearly 4 grams per cup).
The AICR lists blueberries as a top cancer-fighting food. Many of the phytochemicals and nutrients in blueberries are well studied in the laboratory as cancer fighters. They also contain dietary fiber, which can act in several ways to lower cancer risk, including helping with weight control (excess body fat increases the risk of seven different cancers).
The anthocyanins in blueberries can protect the retina from unwanted oxygen damage.
The blueberry compound pterostilbene appears to protect against asthma by reversing airway inflammation.
Blueberries are rich in manganese and vitamin C, two nutrients that may help prevent depression symptoms. Manganese is a mineral needed for the proper use of certain vitamins, such as B and C. A deficiency may contribute to depression due to lowered levels of mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters. With Vitamin C, even slight deficiencies can produce depression symptoms. One cup of blueberries contains almost 24% of the daily need for Vit C.
How To Select, Store and Prepare Blueberries
• Choose firm, plump, dry blueberries with dusty blue color. Avoid berries that are soft, shriveled or with any sign of mold. You may want to opt for organic blueberries, as these often make the “Dirty Dozen” List for pesticide residue.
• Buy frozen blueberries too. These also are high in nutrients and antioxidant phytochemicals.
• Treat yourself to wild blueberries with even more antioxidant power than the more common cultivated blueberries.
• Refrigerate blueberries for up to 10 days.
• Wait to wash until ready to eat.
• Whirl blueberries alone or with other fruits into a smoothie or fruit freeze drink.
• Top cereal or yogurt with fresh or dried blueberries.
• Add blueberries to a green salad (PBS offers a fantastic looking Red, White and Blue Salad for your July 4th celebration)
• Blueberries play well with other fruits! Alone or in combinations, enjoy them in muffins, pancakes, and fruit crumble or crisp desserts.
• Be creative with blueberries: try a blueberry quesadilla with wild blueberry sauce.