by Susan K Wilkerson, RD
LMC Clinical Dietitian
It’s the Summertime Blues!–Blueberries that is. Blueberries are native to North America and are locally available for picking. Fresh picked blueberries are full of health benefits. Blueberries are an ally in the battle to stay healthy and age gracefully. Packed with phytochemicals such as anthocyanin, blueberries have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect against diseases.
In terms of U.S. fruit consumption, blueberries rank only second to strawberries in popularity of berries. Blueberries are not only popular, but also rank high in antioxidant capacities among all fruits. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals — unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Mounting evidence has been shown that blueberries are helpful in warding off cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Blueberries also have vitamin C, fiber and manganese. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries. It also promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system. Research has shown that most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets. Eating foods high in fiber will help keep you regular, your heart healthy and your cholesterol in check. A handful of blueberries can help you meet your daily fiber requirement. What a tasty way to eliminate this worry from your day!
We recommend enjoying raw blueberries — rather than relying upon blueberries incorporated into baked desserts — because, like other fruits, raw blueberries provide you with the best flavor and the greatest nutritional benefits.
Blueberries are available for a few weeks in late spring to early summer. So save some for later by freezing the berries. I wash them before I freeze them because my daughter eats them right out of the freezer bag. So here are the steps in saving your super fruits for all year round eating. Wash berries.(if you eat them frozen or don’t want to wash them after they thaw) Drain them. I place them on an old clean bath towel to dry. Wait. Don’t rub them they are delicate. Pick up four corners of the towel and roll them onto a cookie sheet. Place them in the freezer till frozen solid, a few hours or overnight. Then pour them in freezer bags and enjoy them anytime of the year. Most recommend washing them after they are thawed so they don’t get mushy. See below for more information on where to pick.