Berry season is in full swing. Summer is the time of year to get berries at their tastiest and best price. Today I will focus on blueberries, which have a tart yet sweet flavor that will wake up your taste buds when added to your morning cereal, oatmeal, or whole wheat pancake mix. During the day, add them to smoothies or sprinkle on a slice of angel food cake topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
How many of your friends have read how healthy blueberries are but don't really know why? Dietitians can't even keep up with all the latest research unveiling superb health benefits from natural foods. Today I'll help you understand why you absolutely must add blueberries to your daily routine. Besides their great flavor and versatility in breakfast, snack and dessert foods, blueberries may help decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. What better reason to dig in? Blueberries are one of many foods that can be used as preventive medicine, and perhaps help you avoid adding downing a laundry list of pills. (Note: I do not recommend anyone stop taking their prescription medications and eat blueberries instead; always consult with your doctor.)
Blueberries are vibrant, tiny, blue packages bursting with disease-fighting superpowers known as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that naturally occur in plants. An example is beta carotene found in carrots. Phytochemicals found in blueberries are known as anthocyanins, which are typically found in red wine and red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins have antioxidant power that fight against free radical damage to cells that can cause cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and others.
Recent research on blueberries suggests they may have the highest antioxidant activity when compared to other fruits and vegetables. These antioxidant powerhouses have the potential to improve memory, protect the brain from stroke damage, help decrease the aging process, protect the heart, help to prevent cancer, and possibly improve vision. All of these diseases and conditions are typically caused by inflammation that's brewing inside of our bodies. Antixodants found in blueberries snuff out the flame of inflammation, thus potentially helping to fight off these diseases. Remember: inflammation is the enemy!
What about the nutrition facts? One cup of blueberries, which is a pretty nice serving, will provide approximately: 84 calories, 21 g carbs, 0.5 g fat, 1g protein, 4 g dietary fiber (this will add nicely to the recommended daily intake of 25 g for women, 35 g for men), 14 mg vitamin C (an antioxidant; men need 75mg/day, women 60mg/day), 80 IU vitamin A, 114 mg potassium (men & women need ~4.5g/day; helps to lower blood pressure), and 0.8mg vitamin E (another antioxidant; men & women need 15mg/day) to name just a few.
Now when you're chatting with your friends, you can tell them WHY blueberries are more than great-tasting. Don't be shy to stock up at your local farmer's market or grocery. Think of blueberries as little blue capsules of life-sustaining goodness. And remember, you can enjoy blueberries in the winter as well by purchasing frozen, no sugar added bags. Here's to the fight against inflammation!
References: Blueberries for Health(2002). Retrieved July 6, 2009, from US Highbush Blueberry Council Web site: http://www.blueberry.org/health.htm
Ehrensberger, B.S. (2007, June). Berries: Big Health Benefits in a Tiny Package. Retrieved July 6, 2009, from Healthcastle Web site: http://www.healthcastle.com/berries_benefits.shtml Peaslee, K.R. (July 2006). The Power of a Blue Diet. Today's Dietitian, [8 (7)], pg. 32.