One of my fondest memories was going blueberry picking as a child. For some reason, my older sisters' pail always filled up faster than my brothers' and mine. I think we spent too much time eating those big plump berries! When I was dating in college, my boyfriend and I went picking…it wasn’t as fun as I remembered.
Since then, I have always ordered pre-picked from the orchard. They are also available by the pound from your grocer or local farm stand. Most years I would order 100 pounds of berries! We would rinse them in a sink of cold water, take off any stems and then into the metal colander they went. From there, we would lay them flat on a clean kitchen towel to dry. We would manage to take up every inch of counter and tabletop space we could find. Once dried, they went into quart-sized freezer bags marked with the date and put gently into the freezer.
Blueberry pancakes were a Sunday staple when our kids were young. Frozen blueberries were also found in my weekday Cheerios…which I still love, because they keep the milk ice cold! Then there was Char’s blueberry coffee cake with the crumble topping would make anyone’s mouth water. I even attempted to make a frozen blueberry daiquiri while in college…let’s just say that was one blueberry concoction that I don’t foresee making again.
What are some of your blueberry favorites? In addition to being delicious, this little fruit packs a big nutritional punch. Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries protect against heart disease, improve bone health, encourage blood circulation, and help control blood sugar levels, all things I didn’t know until later in life. Perhaps you would also like to discover 10 health benefits of blueberries you may not know.
The Nutritional Rundown:
A serving size of blueberries is one cup, which is 148 grams, or anywhere from 65 to 75 berries. According to the USDA, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, one serving of blueberries contains:
- Calories: 84.4
- Protein: 1.1 grams (2% recommended dietary intake [RDI])
- Carbohydrates: 21.4 grams (7% RDI)
- Sugar: 14.7 grams
- Potassium: 114 milligrams (3% RDI)
- Fiber: 3.6 grams (14% RDI)
- Vitamin C: 14.4 milligrams (24% RDI)
- Vitamin B6: 0.77 milligrams (5% RDI)
Blueberries also contain folate, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and manganese. They’re also known for being rich in antioxidants – blueberries contain a flavonoid called anthocyanin, which give blueberries many of their health benefits as well as their signature color.
Ten Benefits of Blueberries:
1. Muscle recovery: Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) can increase muscle soreness, reduce muscle strength, and impact overall athletic performance. But athletes can prevent EIMD and reduce their recovery time with diet. Research has shown that blueberries can increase the rate of muscle strength recovery and muscle repair as well as reduce oxidative stress.
2. Increased heart health: As of 2020, heart disease is the top cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Because of their ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, blueberries can protect against the artery hardening that raises the risk of heart attack and strokes.
3. Fighting urinary tract infections: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common, often chronic, problem for women. The acidity of cranberry juice was previously assumed to treat UTIs, but modern research shows the anti-adhesives in cranberry juice prevent bacteria from infecting the bladder. Blueberries have these same anti-adhesives and can presumably combat UTIs just as effectively, though not as much research has been done on blueberries as cranberries.
4. Disease protection: Oxidative DNA damage is a normal event, occurring tens of thousands of times per day in every cell in the human body. It’s part of the reason we grow older and show signs of aging. Damaged DNA also contributes to the growth of cancer, which occurs when groups of damaged cells replicate quickly and uncontrollably. The high levels of antioxidants in blueberries neutralize some of the free radicals that can damage DNA.
5. Healthy bones: Blueberries contain several minerals and vitamins that contribute to building and maintaining bone health, like iron, phosphorous, calcium, zinc, and vitamin K. Low vitamin K levels have been linked to a higher risk of bone fracture, as vitamin K intake improves calcium absorption.
6. Lower blood pressure: Once again, anthocyanins are at play. These phytochemicals improve the function of the endothelial cells, which line blood vessels and help blood flow and the regulation of blood pressure. Researchers even think blueberries may prevent hypertension altogether. While there are several foods you should avoid if you have high blood pressure, blueberries are not one of them.
7. Diabetes management: Blueberries can improve insulin sensitivity, which lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Research suggests the anthocyanins in blueberries can help lower blood sugar levels as well.
8. Weight loss and healthy digestion: The relatively high fiber content of blueberries can help prevent constipation and maintain a regular digestive system. Getting an adequate amount of fiber in your diet can help you achieve a full feeling, reduce overall caloric intake, and assist in weight-loss efforts.
9. Skin damage prevention: Collagen, which relies on vitamin C to function correctly, is what makes the skin elastic and prevents skin damage from the sun’s UV rays and environmental pollution. One serving of blueberries contains nearly a quarter of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
10. Improved brain function: A 2019 study investigated the relationship between blueberry consumption and cognitive abilities. It found blueberries can “improve delayed memory and cognitive function in children, healthy older adults, and adults with some cognitive impairment.” Another study found blueberries also improve short-term memory. It’s suspected that the flavonoids in blueberries are the key component to these brain benefits.
Thanks to Betty Durochik, Programs Specialist at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers Chesterton, for writing this blog.
Sources: Institute for Integrative Nutrition