Blueberries 101

The most anticipated season of the year (especially for Albertans) has arrived! I absolutely love this time of year- beautiful sunshine, green grass, stunning flowers, and my favorite:  summer berries.

This month we highlight nature’s antioxidant superstar, the blueberry. This delicious berry belongs to the Ericaceae family; also called the health family (very appropriate!) The species also includes cranberries and huckleberries.  Originally native to North America, blueberries now grow in South America, Australia and New Zealand.

You’ll find these berries growing in clusters on shrubs of various sizes. Try to buy these little guys in season (between May and October) — your taste buds will thank you.

Nutrient Values

½ cup serving – 44 calories

• 11 g carbohydrate

• 2 g fiber

• 0.6 g protein

• 0 g fat

• 64.5 g water

         

Health Benefits

Antioxidants

Blueberries are bursting with an assortment of health benefiting antioxidants.  They’ve even been given the highest antioxidant rating among all other fruits! The various antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin to name a few, provide protection against heart disease (by increasing HDL, or good cholesterol) and cancer (such as colon and ovarian). Current studies also show that the various phytochemicals (defined as: a chemical naturally grown in various plants that biological activity and important health benefits in the human body.) may protect brain cells as well as help reverse the effects of age related memory loss.

 

Vitamin C

Recommendations for this vitamin are 75-90mg/day; ½ cup of blueberries contributes about 7.4 mg of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C benefits:

• Helps our bodies absorb iron from plant sources (as much as four times!)

• Has a big role in our immune system, Helps keep our immune system healthy

• Antioxidant – scavenges damaging free radicals in our bodies. Since it is water soluble, it destroys free radicals in a lot of different areas of our bodies.

• Helps keep gums, bones, and muscles healthy

 

Iron

½ cup blueberries provides 0.2mg of iron. Recommendations for males (19 years+) is 8 mg per day; females 18 mg per day.  Pregnancy changes the requirement to 27 mg per day and breastfeeding to 9 mg per day.

Iron is an important mineral that helps carry oxygen all over your body; we need it to stay healthy. Non-heme iron (found in plant foods: vegetables, some fruits, enriched food, and processed grains,) is not as easily absorbed by your body vs. the heme form (found in animal derived foods). Including foods rich in Vitamin C with these non-heme iron sources will actually increase your body’s iron absorption. Nature always has a way of knowing what we our bodies need; in this case, the blueberry provides us with a perfect blend of iron and Vitamin C!

 

Folate

½ cup blueberries = 4 mcg of folate. Recommendations for adults (19 years+) is 400 mcg per day.  Pregnancy changes the requirement to 600mcg/day and breastfeeding to 500mcg/day.

Folate, a water-soluble vitamin, can be found naturally in a variety food like: dark leafy greens, edamame, oranges, beets, broccoli, liver, flaxseed, and asparagus.

Folate benefits:

• Involved in making & maintaining cells and DNA

• Prevents anemia

• Helps make red blood cells

• Prevention of neural tube defects

 

How to Pick & Store

Pick: blueberries should appear firm, uniform in size, and vivid blue/purple with a whitish (or silvery) glow. Give the container a little shake – berries should move freely in the container, if they don’t, they are likely to be soft or moldy.

Store: put unwashed berries in a moisture proof container. They generally last up to 5 days, even longer in some cases. (But do they every really last this long in the fridge? Yum!)

 

Preparation Method

Rinse berries just prior to use, and remove any moldy or soft berries.

While blueberries are best served fresh (add them to yogurt, cereal, salads, etc.), there are countless recipes that include this superstar. We’ve pinned a bunch to this board and will continue adding to it throughout the month, so be sure to follow along!

 

What is your favorite way of eating blueberries?

July 1, 2012
Revive Wellness