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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well

 

Boost your health with blueberries

 

blueberriesWhen selecting fruit, consider that few fruits are more beneficial for your health than fresh blueberries. The USDA ranks blueberries among the highest in terms of antioxidant content and as a powerful ally in fighting aging and associated ailments.

 

“Blueberries are not only a taste treat, but are really considered an antioxidant powerhouse,” says Lynda Johnson, R.D., nutrition & health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “The antioxidant anthocyanidin found in the bluish pigment helps neutralize free radicals that damage cells and protects our bodies from developing cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins and certain cancers,” Johnson states.

 

Other antioxidants in blueberries also show promise in preventing diabetes, high cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston, MA found blueberries improved both memory and motor skills in laboratory animals. These researchers are now exploring what substances in blueberries keep message signals moving and improve brain function.

 

Researchers at Rutgers University found that blueberries help reduce risk for urinary tract infections similar to cranberries. These berries seem to prevent the infection-causing bacteria from sticking to walls in the urinary tract. Their studies also found certain compounds in blueberries lower risk for blood clot formation and heart disease by reducing the stickiness of blood platelet cells.

 

Blueberries are available fresh, frozen and dried, and all forms are rich sources of antioxidants. “Besides the phytonutrients, blueberries are a rich source of vitamins A & C, potassium and fiber, and they are low in calories, only 40 calories per half-cup serving,” says Johnson.

 

When buying fresh blueberries, Johnson recommends choosing those that are firm, plump and dry with smooth skins and a silvery sheen. Reddish berries aren’t quite ripe, but could be used in cooking.

 

Store blueberries covered in the refrigerator, but do not wash until ready to use. Use fresh blueberries within about 10 days of purchase. Berries stored too long will look shriveled from dehydration.

 

Blueberries can easily be frozen. Place a single layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer and then transfer the frozen berries to heavy duty freezer bags. Wash the berries later, just prior to eating or using in baked goods.

 

Johnson suggests getting creative and going beyond the usual blueberry muffins and pancakes by using fresh or frozen blueberries in a variety of ways.

 

  • Layer blueberries with low-fat yogurt and granola cereal for a parfait treat.
  • Sprinkle blueberries over hot or cold cereal.
  • Mix blueberries with cottage cheese.
  • Add blueberries to a salad.
  • Make a blueberry smoothie.
  • Or just eat blueberries as a stand-alone snack.

 

Blueberries are a convenient, quick and easy food for today’s busy lifestyles — no peeling, coring or cutting required. Enjoy a cup of blueberries each day as a great addition to your diet, and for less than 100 calories.

 

For more information or to access additional resources, contact Lynda Johnson, M.S., R.D., University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist at (660) 584-3658 or e-mail johnsonl@missouri.edu.

 


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Last update: Tuesday, July 10, 2012