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July Superfood of the Month: Blueberries


When it comes to food, there are many examples of good things that come in small packages.

 

This is definitely true for blueberries!

 

They may be small, but they are big on flavor and nutrition, which is why...

 

blueberries are our July Superfood of the Month!

 

 

 

Where do blueberries come from?

Blueberries began their farm-to-table journey in North America in 1916, so they officially celebrated their 100th birthday last year!  They were initially just used for medicinal purposes and as a natural flavoring.  Then, in 1916, the first commercial crop of blueberries was sold in New Jersey.

The North America season for blueberries is April through late September.  You can likely find blueberries from local growers or farmers’ markets; however, the season for local berries is likely to be much shorter.  Most U.S. states grow blueberries commercially; however, there are 10 states that account for 98% of the U.S. consumption.  California, Florida and Georgia top the list.  Then, imports from South America fill our stores from October through March -- these imports mainly come from Chile, and other South American countries like Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru.

Blueberries grow on bushes that are often planted in rows, and can be anywhere from a few feet tall to more than 10 feet tall.  In the spring, clusters of white blossoms pop up, are pollinated by bees, and then each blossom turns into one berry.  They are hard and green at first, and then turn reddish-purple, and finally blue and sweet.

 

Why are blueberries important for our health?

With only 40 calories, no sodium and no fat, just 1/2 cup of blueberries makes up 10% of our daily need for Vitamin C.  Blueberries are loaded with other vitamins and essential nutrients, such as fiber, iron and Vitamin K.  But that’s not all!

Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants, known as anthocyanins, that give foods like blueberries, cranberries, eggplant and red cabbage their deep, vibrant color.  Blueberries are one of the best foods on the planet when it comes to destroying free radicals.  They contribute to big health benefits such as reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and more...

  • Help lower blood pressure - loaded with potassium, calcium, and magnesium, they act as a natural blood pressure medicine!

 

  • Prevent cancer - the antioxidants found in blueberries help inhibit tumor growth and decrease inflammation.

 

  • Improve mental health - blueberries have been considered "brain berries" for their ability to combat the mental aging process.

 

  • Aid in healthy digestion - because they are high in insoluble fiber, blueberries can help keep us regular and prevent digestion disorders.

 

  • Fights wrinkles!  Collagen in our skin relies on Vitamin C and antioxidants to help prevent damage.  The Vitamin C in blueberries helps promote collagen's ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall appearance.

 

  • Ward off bladder infections - like cranberries, there are compounds found in blueberries that can help prevent bacteria from adhering to bladder walls, which can lead to infections.

 

How do you choose blueberries?

When selecting blueberries, they should be firm, dry and plump, with smooth skins.  Size is not necessarily an indicator of maturity.

You should also pay attention to the color – look for deep purple to bluish-black.  Reddish colored blueberries are not ripe yet.  Avoid soft shriveled blueberries, and juice stains may indicate the berries are bruised or damaged.

 

 

How do you store blueberries?

When you purchase fresh blueberries, store them in the refrigerator and rinse and eat within 10 days.  For best results, you should rinse blueberries just before eating.  But, if you decide to rinse right away, just be sure to dry them well before placing in the refrigerator to eliminate excess moisture which can cause them to deteriorate faster.

Blueberries also freeze beautifully.   It's your choice whether to wash them before or after freezing...just make sure they are dry before freezing.  When you thaw frozen blueberries, plan to eat them within 1-2 days for best results.

 

What can you do with blueberries?

Fresh, in-season blueberries are literally bursting with flavor and are delicious in meals any time of the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even dessert!  Here are some of our favorite meal ideas:

Fruit Topped Dutch Baby Pancake

Blueberry Maple Overnight Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal Cups

Pork Chops with Blueberry Ginger Relish

Sweet Summer Corn Salad

 

 

Salad with Addictive Spicy Pecans and Berries

Berry and Raw Brownie Parfait

Red, White, and Blueberry Spritzer

Blueberry Muffins

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Basil and Blueberry Sauce

 

 

 

 

Buyer Beware!  Keep in mind, blueberries are often used to create a “health halo” for processed foods like granola bars, muffins, cereals, yogurts and more.

Take a look at those ingredients!  Those "blueberry pieces" found in the ingredient list in many processed foods could really just be a combination of sugar, corn syrup and food coloring...no blueberries at all!  Keep reading those ingredient labels to make sure you are getting the REAL deal!

 

This is the perfect time of year to add blueberries to your meals and snacks…and to enjoy all the benefits these powerful little fruits have to offer!

Take the Superfood challenge and try blueberries in different ways every week in July -- you just might find a new favorite!

 

 

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