Blueberries: A Boost of Blue

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When it comes to focus and memory, there is no denying the importance of brain health. While several factors influence cognitive function, the foods we eat on a daily basis are a crucial part of keeping our mind sharp. There are many nutrients that can help support brain health-one that is found in fruits and vegetables is anthocyanins. Compared to other commonly consumed fruits, berries are uniquely high in anthocyanins, plant compounds that are responsible for their vibrant blue, red, and purple color. In fact, research shows that anthocyanins present in blueberries (163.3 mg/100 g) may help to improve mild cognitive performance in older adults.

One Serving, or a Cup of Blueberries:

  1. Is considered one serving of fruit
  2. Contain just 80 calories and is a good source of fiber
  3. Contributes essential nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and Phytonutrients called Polyphenols
  4. Contains Anthocyanins, which are compounds that give blueberries in their blue color
  5. Is a good source of Fiber, containing ~4g

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods such as blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality. Although more research is needed, blueberries are strongly linked to various different elements of healthful living.

  1. Maintaining Healthy Bones: Blueberries contain iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K. Each of these is a component of bone. Adequate intake of these minerals and vitamins contributes to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
  1. Skin Health: One cup of blueberries provides 24 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, and works to help prevent skin damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C may also improve collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and enhance overall skin texture.
  1. Managing Diabetes: Studies have found that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have low blood glucose levels, and people with type 2 diabetes who consume the same may have improved blood sugar, lipid, and insulin One cup of blueberries contributes 3.6 grams (g) of fiber.
  1. Protecting Against Heart Disease: The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content in blueberries supports heart health. The absence of cholesterol from blueberries is also beneficial to the heart. Fiber content helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
  1. Preventing Cancer: Vitamin C, vitamin A, and the various phytonutrients in blueberries function as powerful antioxidants that may help protect cells against damage from disease-linked free radicals.
  1. Improving Mental Health: Population-based studies have shown that consumption of blueberries is connected to slower cognitive decline. Studies have also found that in addition to reducing the risk of cognitive damage, blueberries can also improve a person’s short-term memory and motor coordination.
  1. ­­­­­Healthy Digestion, Weight Loss, and Feeling Full: Blueberries help to prevent constipation and maintain regularity for a healthful digestive tract because of their fiber content.

Blueberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze dried, and in jellies, syrups, and jams. Be sure to check the label of frozen and dried blueberries for added sugars. When selecting jellies or jams, choose all-fruit spreads without added sweeteners, juices, or fillers.

Here are some quick tips on including blueberries in meal options:

  • Use blueberries as fresh toppings on oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or cereal for an extra burst of flavor and nutrition in your breakfast.
  • Whip up a quick and easy smoothie using frozen berries, low-fat milk, and yogurt.
  • Mix fresh or dried blueberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and feta cheese.
  • Fold blueberries into muffins and sweet breads.
  • Blend them in a food processor with a little water, as part of a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods

Harvest of the Month

NC Harvest of the Month-Steps to Health: Blueberries

The North Carolina Harvest of the Month featured fruit is blueberries.

Health and Learning Success Go Hand-in-Hand

Getting children to try new foods can be hard. It is normal to offer a new food many times before kids are willing to try it. Be a good role model and eat fruits and vegetables in front of your children.

Use Harvest of the Month tips and recipes to encourage trying new foods and to find new family favorites.

BE AN ACTIVE FAMILY!

Determine time slots throughout the week when the whole family is available. Devote a few of these times to physical activity.Try doing something active after dinner or begin the weekend with a Saturday morning walk.

Healthy Serving Ideas

  • Add berries to your cereal for added fiber and flavor.
  • Mash berries to make your own jam.
  • Top pancakes with fresh blueberries.
  • Stir your favorite berries into lowfat yogurt for a tasty snack.
  • Toss blueberries into a salad.
  • Keep a bag of mixed berries in the freezer for smoothies.

Honey Gingered Fruit Salad

Makes 6 servings. 1 cup per serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 small banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 cup nectarines, sliced
  • 1 cup kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

Honey Ginger Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup 100% orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit
  2. In a small bowl, mix all sauce ingredients until well blended.
  3. Pour honey ginger sauce over fruit and toss together.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Serve chilled.

*Do not give honey to children under the age of one.

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 124, Carbohydrate 32 g, Dietary Fiber 4 g, Protein 2 g, Total Fat 1 g. Saturated Fat 0 g. Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 4 mg

Adapted from: Soulful Recipes: Building Healthy Traditions, Network for a Healthy California, 2009. Recipe courtesy of BOND of Color. References: Medical News Today, Blueberry Council, NC State Extension

blueberries spelled out in front a of a handful of blueberries

How to Freeze Blueberries

Freezing blueberries is easy! By freezing blueberries when they are in season, you can have a healthy and fun treat all vear.

Take your fresh, sorted blueberries and pack them in an air-tight containers and store in the back of the freezer. Don’t wash before freezing, wash before using.

Blueberries don’t have to be thawed before cooking or eating them! Learn more about NC blueberries, northcarolinablueberries

Home Grown Facts

  • Blueberries are native to the US. Native Americans first called blueberries “star berries” because the blossom end forms a perfect five-pointed star.
  • The U.S. is the world’s largest blueberry producer. NC is one of the top growers of blueberries. Blueberries are the official blue berry of NC. The NC harvest season typically runs from June through August. Blueberries grow on a bush up to 12 feet high.

Attend a Blueberry Festival! During peak season, North Carolina is host to local blueberry festivals. June is North Carolina’s blueberry month.

Local farms often have “pick-your-own” berry patches. Have fun and be active by selecting and picking your own fresh fruit.

NC State Extension


Why Focus on Fruits and Vary My Veggies?

  • Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Fruits and vegetables are sources of fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, helps keep your blood sugar levels normal, and helps to avoid constipation.
  • Fruits and vegetables like blueberries are also a source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body heal cuts and wounds and lower the risk of infection.
  • Berries are rich in phytochemicals. which come from plants and may help you stay healthy.
  • A good tip to follow is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables to reach your daily needs!

How Much Do I Need?

The amount of fruits and vegetables you need depends on your age, gender, and how active you are every day.

Look at the chart at right to find out how many cups of fruits and vegetables you and your family need every day.

Recommended Daily Amount of Fruits and Vegetables*

Males

Kids, Ages 5-12 – 2½-5 cups per day

Teens and Adults, Ages 13 and up – 4½-6½ cups per day

Females

Kids, Ages 5-12 – 2½-5 cups per day

Teens and Adults, Ages 13 and up – 3½-5 cups per day

*If you are active, eat the higher number of cups per day.

Visit MyPlate  to learn more.


How Much Do I Need?

  • A half cup of blueberries is about one cupped handful.
  • A half cup of blueberries is a good source* of vitamin C and contains fiber.
    *Good sources provide 10-19% Daily Value

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: ½ cup blueberries (74g)

Calories 42

Total Fat 0g

Total Fat 0g

Saturated Fat 0g

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol Omg

Sodium 1mg

Total Carbohydrate 11 g

Dietary Fiber 2g

Sugars 7g

Protein 1 g

Vitamin A 1%

Vitamin C 12%

Calories from Fat 0

% Daily Value

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

4%

7%

Calcium 0%

Iron 1%


Produce Tips

  • Choose fresh blueberries that are plump and have a solid, dark blue color.
  • Refrigerate for up to two weeks.
  • Wash berries just before serving.
  • Shop for fresh berries in season to get the best value. Or buy frozen berries year-round at the grocery store.

Frozen Blueberries

Frozen blueberries can be thawed in cold water.

  • To thaw in cold water, pour the desired amount into a bowl. Cover the blueberries with cold water. One cup of blueberries will thaw in about 5 minutes.

More Blueberries Each Day

  • Blend frozen berries with sliced bananas, lowfat milk, and 100% orange juice for a refreshing smoothie.
  • Make healthy banana splits for dessert! Top a peeled banana with lowfat vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle with lowfat granola and berries.
  • Add blueberries to oatmeal, lowfat yogurt, or cereal.

ACTIVE ADULTS

Be active your way. There are endless ways to be active walking, biking, dancing, martial arts, gardening, and playing ball. Try out different activities to see what you like best and to add variety.


To learn about the other food groups, visit Choose MyPlate

Written By

Dominque Simon, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDominque SimonExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences - Health, Nutrition, & Food Safety Call Dominque Email Dominque N.C. Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center
Updated on Jun 27, 2024
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