Blueberries – so delicious and a super food for your health

April 21, 2011


Blueberries are a super food bursting with nutrition and flavor while being very low in calories.

Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath family, which includes the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color

 Researchers at TuftsUniversityanalyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability. Blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals. Packed with antioxidant phytonutrients called anthocyanidins, blueberries neutralize free radical damage to the collagen matrix of cells and tissues that can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Anthocyanins, the blue-red pigments found in blueberries, improve the integrity of support structures in the veins and entire vascular system. Blueberries are a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, and both soluble and insoluble fiber like pectin. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin E.

 Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

In laboratory animal studies, researchers have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Researchers found that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging animals, making them mentally equivalent to much younger ones.

Blueberries can help relieve both diarrhea and constipation. In addition to soluble and insoluble fiber, blueberries also contain tannins, which act as astringents in the digestive system to reduce inflammation. Blueberries also promote urinary tract health. They contain the same compounds found in cranberries that help prevent or eliminate urinary tract infections. In order for bacteria to infect, they must first adhere to the mucosal lining of the urethra and bladder. Components found in cranberries and blueberries reduce the ability of E. coli, the bacteria that is the most common cause of urinary tract infections, to adhere.

Ripe blueberries should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week, although they will be freshest if consumed within a few days. Always check berries before storing and remove any damaged berries to prevent the spread of mold. But don’t wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skins from degradation. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor.  Make sure they are dry and put them in containers and freeze.  When using frozen berries in recipes that do not require cooking rinse and thaw prior to using. For cooked recipes, use unthawed berries since this will ensure maximum flavor. Extend the cooking time a few minutes to accommodate for the frozen berries. You may notice that berries used in baked products may take on a green color. This is a natural reaction of their anthocyanidin pigments and does NOT make the food item unsafe to eat.

Blueberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating blueberries.

 A few quick serving ideas:

Add frozen blueberries to your breakfast shake. If the blender container is plastic, allow berries a few minutes to soften, so they will not damage the blender.

Fresh or dried blueberries add a colorful punch to cold breakfast cereals.

For a deliciously elegant dessert, layer yogurt and blueberries in wine glasses and top with crystallized ginger.

Blueberry pie, cobbler and muffins are classic favorites that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Enjoy your blueberries.   

For more nutrition and health information, contact Dr. Wendy at 231-348-0838 or pattonwendy@gmail.com   Dr. Wendy is available for individual appointments, phone appointments, group sessions, speaking engagements and is now offering a Corporate Wellness Program.     

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