The Power of Blue

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No single food can supply all the nutrients you need; for example, milk contains calcium and vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. Oranges contain vitamin C but no B12. However, some foods carry more than their fair share of nutrients. It is time to meet the blueberry!

A 1/2-cup serving has 25% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C, 3 grams of dietary fiber and numerous other disease-fighting nutrients all for just 30 calories!

Blueberries are not only a good source of fiber and vitamin C, which have been shown to reduce the risk for chronic diseases, but their blue pigment has antioxidant (free radical absorbing) abilities that may help protect the body from heart disease, cancer and more. Some of the health benefits proven and currently being researched include:

• Anti-aging – The pigments in blueberries, called anthocyanins, have been shown to retard and even reverse age-related declines in brain function and cognitive and motor performance in rats. Other compounds in blueberries may delay the effects of vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
• Heart disease – Blueberries are believed to have the potential to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Their antioxidants also appear to protect artery cells against damage that ultimately results in clogged arteries and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
• Antibacterial properties – Just as cranberries protect the health of the urinary tract, blueberries may as well. Several substances in the blueberry may interfere with bacteria adhering to cells that line the urinary tract.
• Eyesight – People in Japan have imported blueberries not just for their taste, but because they believe blueberries improve eyesight and reduce eyestrain. Blueberry’s European cousin, the bilberry, has been studied for its potential to improve night vision and prevent cataracts.

Getting Your Blues
Whether you are eating blueberries for the health benefits or just because you like their taste, they can be incorporated into many dishes that are easy to make, healthful and tasty.

• In the late summer when berries are plentiful and on sale, buy them in large quantities and freeze them. Just wash and dry the berries, lay a single row on a pan and pop them into the freezer until they are solid. Package in freezer-safe storage bags in recipe portions and you are set to make your favorite recipes in the middle of winter!
• Frozen berries can be substituted for fresh in most recipes. It is best not to let them thaw first because they will turn your batter blue!
• Keep blueberries refrigerated until ready to use. Do not wash them until ready to use.
• Add one-half cup of blueberries to your morning cereal.
• Top lowfat frozen yogurt with a handful of blueberries.
• Stir a half-cup of blueberries into plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt.
• Blueberry sauce is a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken or pork.
• Be traditional and add blueberries to your pancake or waffle batter. Serve warm with fresh blueberries or blueberry sauce.
• Have a blueberry smoothie for breakfast.

By Sara Laidlaw, MS, RD.

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