Blueberries Pack a Nutritional Punch with Few Calories
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Blueberries have deep roots in our history. By the time the Europeans arrived, our
native inhabitants were already enjoying blueberries year round by using preservation
techniques. As the legend goes, Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims,
helping them make it through their first winter.
Native Americans revered blueberries. The blossom end of each berry, the calyx, forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star; the elders of the tribe would tell of how the Great Spirit sent "star berries" to relieve the children's hunger during a famine.
Blueberries contain a high antioxidant content which is thought to be important for preserving brain function. Anthocyanin, which is found in the intensely blue pigment of the fruit, is said to contain the antioxidants that help protect against many diseases of aging, including heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes, as well as certain types of cancer.
In fact, just one serving of blueberries can provide as many antioxidants as five servings of carrots, apples, broccoli, or squash. Blueberries have been ranked by USDA studies as the number one antioxidant.
The USDA recommends that adults eat two cups of fruit a day. Blueberries contain only 82 calories per 1 cup serving; plus are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese.
Blueberries, fresh or frozen, can help you fulfill that recommendation. Local, fresh blueberries are available now at the Gateway farmers market on 9th & Jefferson, as well as in supermarkets.
When selecting berries, whether straight from the tree, from a farmers market, or on the produce shelf, look for those that are plump and firm with a light silvery “bloom.” This bloom is a natural protective wax on the berries.
Always select ripe blueberries, which have a light blue to blue-black color. The deepness of the blue will depend upon the variety. If you choose red or green berries, be ready for a sour flavor, since they will not be ripe.
After selecting your blueberries, it is essential that you store them properly. Due to their fragile nature, they should be refrigerated immediately after harvest.
Always store blueberries in a container with a loose cover, or cover slightly with plastic wrap. Depending upon the initial freshness of the berries, they can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days to 1 week.
Contrary to what you might want to do, do not wash berries prior to storing them. Moisture from washing allows mold to grow. Instead, wash them just before you use them. If you are going to freeze them for later use, spread them in a single layer on a jelly roll pan and place in the freezer. After they are frozen, remove them and pack into freezer bags or containers.
Regardless of how you choose to eat blueberries, research is showing that they are a nutritional powerhouse, being low in calories, yet high in antioxidants. So if you want to slow down the effects of aging, why not try a cup of blueberries. Not only are they good for you, they are just plain GOOD!
Contact me at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in Miller County for your free copy of Arkansas’ Fresh Blueberries, which contains nutritional information as well as recipes. In addition, we have numerous information concerning canning, freezing, and making jams and jellies from fresh blueberries. Contact me at 870-779-3609, visit us in the Miller County Courthouse, or e-mail me at Chadley@uada.edu. You may also visit our website at www.uaex.uada.edu/counties/miller/.
By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
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