Blueberries

Blueberries are the all-purpose berry: They’re reasonably priced, beautifully colored, delicious, and ideal for eating by themselves as a snack or in cereal, smoothies, salads, muffins, or pies. They are known as a superfood because they are highly nutritious, containing lots of powerful antioxidants.

Nutritional Facts:  The following information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup (148g) of raw blueberries.

  • Calories: 84
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 1.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Fiber: 3.6g
  • Sugars: 15g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 36% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 25% of the RDI
  • Small amounts of various other nutrients

Carbs: One cup of raw blueberries contains about 84 calories and 21 grams of carbohydrates. It also yields nearly 4 grams of fiber. Though a cup of blueberries contains 15 grams of total sugar, its glycemic load, which factors in how much of a particular food will raise blood sugar levels, is below 10, which is considered low.

Fats: Blueberries contain just a trace amount of fat and are cholesterol-free.

Protein: Blueberries have a minimal amount of protein. You should include other protein sources in your diet to meet your daily needs.

Vitamins and Minerals: Blueberries are a rich source of essential nutrients, including vitamins C and K and the mineral manganese, which helps the body process cholesterol and nutrients like carbohydrates and protein. Vitamin K is a key nutrient in blood clotting and healthy bones.

Health Benefits: Blueberries contain compounds known as polyphenols, which are sort of an all-around handyman for good health. Scientists have found many benefits to blueberries due to the micronutrients they provide.

Improve Memory: Blueberries have been shown to help maintain memory and prevent cognitive decline. One small study showed that people who regularly drank blueberry juice had improved performance on memory tests (also decreased symptoms of depression). A much larger, long-term study, published in 2012, credited berries for delaying cognitive aging by as much as two and a half years.

Fight Inflammation: Blueberries are abundant in phyto (plant) components, such as flavonoids, which are responsible for the berry’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Blueberries also have lots of vitamin C. It acts as an antioxidant, aiding in wound healing, boosting immunity, and providing anti-aging properties.

Reduce Heart Attack Risk: In one study, eating three or more weekly servings of berries like blueberries reduced the risk of heart attack in women by 32%. Blueberries are so beneficial in part because they are rich in heart-healthy, filling fiber. Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrate that aids in satiety, helps to regulate bowels, assists in pulling cholesterol away from the heart, and helps stabilize blood sugar.

Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that may benefit the heart by improving blood flow and countering the buildup of plaque.

Decrease Cancer Risk: Some research suggests that eating foods with anthocyanins may also help to fend off cancer. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, and they are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables including blueberries.

Improve Insulin Sensitivity: Although blueberries do contain naturally occurring sugars, their anthocyanins appear to improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood sugar levels. That means they can help lower the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Allergies: Blueberries are a natural source of salicylates, so if you are allergic to these chemicals—they are the active ingredient in aspirin and are found in other foods and personal-care products as well—you should eat blueberries with caution (some people are more sensitive to salicylates than others).

Adverse Effects: Blueberries may interact with some medications. In addition to salicylates, which act as a natural blood thinner, blueberries are loaded with vitamin K, a nutrient that is important for blood clotting. If you are taking a blood thinner like Coumadin (warfarin), talk to your doctor about the effects of eating foods high in salicylates and vitamin K on your medication.

Varieties: Blueberries are one of the few fruits that are native to North America. You can purchase either wild blueberries or cultivated ones. Wild berries are smaller than their cultivated cousins and have a more intense, tangy flavor. They also contain more antioxidants than cultivated berries.

In Season: The North American blueberry season runs from April to September, but imports from South America—where the seasons are reversed—are available from October to March.

Choose firm, dry, well-rounded, smooth-skinned berries that are bright blue with a slightly frosted look. Reddish blueberries aren’t ripe and won’t ripen once picked, but you can use them in cooking. Avoid berries that are soft, shriveled, or have any sign of mold.

When out of season, fresh blueberries can be among the more expensive fruits. A cost-effective and equally healthy choice is to opt for flash frozen blueberries, which are an excellent addition to smoothies, baked goods, and even as a topping for overnight oats. Frozen berries are generally picked at peak ripeness (when they’re the most nutritious), and research shows that freezing helps preserve their nutritional content.

Storage and Food Safety: Refrigerate fresh blueberries and eat them within 10 days. You can also buy whole frozen blueberries. Frozen blueberries can be stored in the freezer for up to a year for the best quality but remain safe to eat beyond that time.

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