Health Benefits of Blueberries
| 3 min read
Blueberries are one of the best summer fruit crops in Michigan. These little blue orbs are brimming out of pint and quart containers at area farmers markets, locally-sourced in our grocery store produce sections, and lure the adventurous who carry buckets into U-pick berry farms. Blueberries are also little superstars when it comes to health benefits.
Blueberries in Michigan
Blueberries have been grown as a cultivated crop in this state for more than a century. Currently, there are more than 20,000 acres in production by nearly 600 family farms, yielding more than 100 million pounds of these fruits each year, according to state agricultural data. The type of blueberries available at farms and stores are what’s known as highbush blueberries, and Michigan farmers tend more than 30 varieties of these bushes.
Fresh blueberry season in Michigan runs from July into September. At least half of all the blueberries picked from Michigan fields are sold as fresh fruit. The rest are frozen, canned, pureed or made into concentrate.
One of reasons blueberries are characterized as a superfood is their high level of antioxidants. And getting more antioxidants into your diet is always a good thing because they help prevent damage in our bodies at the cellular level. Blueberries also contain lots of nutrients, are sweet enough to eat by the handful, and have been shown to offer a list of other health benefits. These include:
Including blueberries regularly in your diet can help lower your blood pressure, offering protection from stroke and heart disease. A small 2010 randomized controlled trial showed a freeze-dried blueberry supplement drink lowered systolic blood pressure 6% after two months.
Eating blueberries can improve your memory. Studies have shown that berries can slow down your brain’s aging process. A cohort study involving 16,000 people found that berry intake was associated with delaying cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years.
Blueberries are very dense in nutrients. A low-calorie food, blueberries have less than 90 calories per cup, but are packed with vitamins, according to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In one cup you’ll be getting:
- 16% of the daily value of Vitamin C
- 24% of the daily value of Vitamin K
- 3.6 grams of fiber
- 22% of the daily value of manganese
Blueberries versatility makes them a star player in daily meals. But to get the most health benefits, you’ll want to think about how you eat them. As much as you might love blueberry pies, blueberry muffins, and blueberry pancakes, save those berry baked goods for occasional treats. The biggest benefit from blueberries comes from eating them fresh. Some ideas:
- Mix them with other favorites like grapes, strawberries or melon chunks and make a fruit salad.
- Eat them straight out of the container as a snack.
- Toss a handful of fresh berries and some granola over yogurt for an easy breakfast or dessert.
- Add them into a green salad with some pecans.
Frozen berries are great for you, too. You can U-pick blueberries or buy them in bulk and freeze them yourself, or buy them frozen from the store. Some ideas:
- Blend them into smoothies for breakfast or a snack.
- Thaw them and use them to top your morning oatmeal.
- Eat them frozen for a cool treat on a hot day.
No matter how you use them, make it a priority to get more blueberries into your meals so you can start reaping the health benefits.
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