Food for Thought
Having trouble finding blueberries in your favorite grocery store? That’s because merchants can’t keep up with the new consumer demand for these sweet, juicy, healthy blue orbs. That may be in part because of a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. This study found that blueberries ranked number 1 in terms of antioxidant activity—beating out 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables! Antioxidants help neutralize the metabolic byproducts known as free radicals, which can lead to cancer and other age-related diseases.
Other Health Benefits. Other studies have shown that blueberries can improve short-term memory loss; may reduce the buildup of low-density cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke; promote urinary tract health and reduce the risk of urinary tract infection; improve eyesight and help ease eye fatigue; improve behavioral learning ability; and restore balance and coordination. Interestingly, the compound called anthocyanin in the fruit’s blue pigment may be responsible for the blueberry’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Picking Blueberries. The full flavor and sweetness of the berries develop several days to a week after they turn blue. When buying blueberries at your market, opt for the softer, dusty-blue varieties rather than the black, shiny ones that contain seeds. Avoid blueberries that have a white mold, which indicates lack of freshness. Wild blueberries tend to be smaller and more intense in flavor than their conventionally grown counterparts. However, experts warn against picking your own wild berries, because there are numerous poisonous varieties. Dried and/or organic blueberries are becoming more readily available.
Can’t find fresh berries at this time of year? Experts say that frozen blueberries have the same nutritional value as fresh ones, since they are typically picked at their peak of ripeness and then individually quick-frozen.
Blueberry Bounty. There is no end to what a creative cook can do with a pint or two of blueberries. Whether you are making jam or jelly, mixing up a smoothie or topping off your breakfast cereal, these fruits are an ideal choice! Fold them into muffins, douse them with low-fat yogurt for a simple parfait, or use them to thicken meat stews the way Native Americans used to do. Blueberries are also the ideal fruit for pies. While other kinds of berries fall apart when exposed to high heat, blueberries puff up and retain their shape when cooked. That’s because blueberries have less juice than other berries, making them easier to handle when baking.