Blueberries may be small, but they are full of nutrients that support our health. Learn the nutrition benefits of eating blueberries & how to select, store & enjoy them.
Once called “star berries” by early Native Americans, blueberries have passed the test of time and are becoming increasingly popular in the current American diet. Consumption of the little berry has more than doubled since 1995, and with good reason. Let’s just say that whoever coined the phrase “Good things come in small packages” must have been a blueberry lover.
The Superfood of the USA
Who needs an imported, expensive acai berry when we have blueberries so close to home? In fact, 38 out of the 50 states produce blueberries commercially, including Pennsylvania. This means they’re not only in your local grocery store, but they can also be popping up at local farmer’s markets! And there’s more good news – Fresh blueberries can be purchased year-round.
- North American blueberries are available from April – October with peak season being mid-June to mid-August
- South American blueberries are available from November – March
Choosing (and Keeping) the Best Blueberry
When selecting your berries, pick plump, firm, dry blueberries with a dusty blue color (that powdered-appearance on the skin is natural.) And don’t be fooled – color, not size, is a sign of maturity. Blueberries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black. Berries that are red in color are not ripe and will be better if used for cooking rather than for eating raw. Blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator and can be kept for up to 10 – 14 days (but with as good as they taste, they tend to get eaten long before they would go bad.)
Consider Freezing Your Own
Freezing your own berries is a great idea. You can save a lot of money by loading up on them when they are less expensive. To freeze them properly:
- Make sure the blueberries are dry before going into the freezer – either store without rinsing, or rinse and then dry them completely
- If you choose to skip rinsing them prior to freezing, they must still be washed before eating
- Place the dry berries in a re-sealable plastic bag, or other freezer container, and store them on a freezer shelf
- For the best quality, use within 6 months
Health and Nutrition Benefits of Blueberries
I could go on and on about the benefits of eating blueberries. As with all fruit, they are naturally free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. They are packed with fiber, vitamin C and manganee, though. Just one cup of blueberries contains ~85 calories and 4 grams of fiber.
Blueberries contain polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Those compounds may play a role in slowing the inflammatory processes involved in various chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and age-related cognitive decline.
7 Simples Ways to Enjoy Blueberries
- Top cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt with a handful of fresh blueberries
- Make a fruit smoothie with fresh or frozen berries
- Tip: Add a little lemon juice to your smoothie to help the berries keep their bright color. They tend to take on a grey hue when mixed with too much dairy (due to it’s basic pH)
- Add blueberries to pancakes or waffles
- Tip: Gently fold the berries into the batter. Stirring may cause them to break
- Bake a batch of whole-wheat blueberry muffins
- Tip: Coat the berries by gently tossing them in flour before adding them to the batter. This will help to keep them from falling to the bottom while baking
- Bake a blueberry parfait layered with plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and topped with low-fat granola
- Blueberries pair well with a wide range of flavors – add them to a sweet fruit salad or savory garden salad
- The simplest (and sometimes best way) to enjoy blueberries – Eat them plain!