Americans have long known about the wonderful health benefits of blueberries. This attractive berry has been a favorite in the family home for years and ranks second only to strawberries in their popularity. Fruits, along with vegetables are of prime importance in a balanced diet, and blueberries are recognized as being the most beneficial of all the fruits.
Probably the most well-known fact about blueberries is the high level of antioxidants contained in the small fruit. Blueberries rank at the top of the antioxidant list with only beans (red, red kidney and pinto) scoring higher. The main and most powerful antioxidants are contained in the skin of the fruit, so make sure to include the skin when enjoying blueberries. Any juicing that removes the skin from the juice will impact the levels of these beneficial nutrients.
There is good news for athletes. The high levels of antioxidants actually help to protect them from inflammation and cell damage that can occur after a challenging workout. This comes from the major impact blueberries have on cellular inflammation.
According to many sources, wild blueberries score higher than cultivated blueberries in antioxidant levels. Wild blueberries, or “lowbush” blueberries are grown in northern regions including Maine and parts of Canada. The cultivated or “highbush” blueberry is grown in several states within the U.S. The names represent different plants rather than a difference in how the berries are grown, although Maine’s blueberries come from plants occurring naturally within the state. Wild blueberries are about half the size of cultivated blueberries. Their higher score in antioxidant values most likely comes from the fact that because of their size, about twice as many berries are contained in a serving.
Regardless of the source, blueberries are a great fruit choice due to their convenience and versatility. Blueberries can be frozen without losing any of their nutritional value. Recent studies have shown that freezing does not damage the sometimes fragile antioxidants. This makes blueberries a great choice year round. Although the texture of a frozen berry will change, the benefits will not. Typically, frozen blueberries are available at a lower price than fresh blueberries and can be eaten as a snack after thawing slightly.
For those who are interested in freezing their own blueberries, simply spread the berries out in one layer on a cookie sheet and freeze. Freezing this way keeps the berries from clumping together. Once they are frozen, place in freezer bags. Do not wash the berries prior to freezing, but rinse gently once removed from the freezer.
Blueberries are also a great source for vitamin K, vitamin C and manganese, with one serving providing 35% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, and 25% of both vitamin C and manganese. They are also a good source for fiber with one serving providing 14 grams.
There is good news in the area of cognitive health, especially recently. Although it has been known for quite some time that blueberries have a potential benefit on brain and nervous system health, a recent study has shown that they may have a positive impact on memory. There is a current study taking place that suggests that blueberries might also be beneficial in delaying some of the cognitive challenges that frequently occur with aging.
Fresh blueberries are a great quick snack. Fresh or frozen, blueberries can easily be added to salads, desserts, breakfast foods and breads to provide a super boost to your health.