The berry best benefits of blueberries

by LeAnne Anderson, RDN, LD
Sweet, plump, and juicy blueberries often make the “super foods” lists, and for good reason!  Weighing in at just over 80 calories per cup, blueberries are fat-free, low in sodium and a good source of fiber.  Even more impressive are the additional nutrition benefits they provide:
ANTIOXIDANTS - A group of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, which help counteract the formation of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a by-product of the body using oxygen for energy, and can also come from environmental factors such as pollution or cigarette smoke.  Antioxidants counteract these free radicals and help prevent or even reverse the damage they cause to our body’s cells.  1 cup of blueberries provides 24% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C!    
PHYTOCHEMICALS - These compounds have recently sparked interest among the nutrition community.  Found in plant-based foods, these naturally-occurring chemicals may help slow the aging process, increase immunity, and prevent or reduce the risk for some cancers and chronic diseases such as diabetes.  Anthocyanin and elagic acid are two of the phytonutrients present in blueberries.   
VITAMIN K - Important factor for proper blood clotting, regulation of calcium metabolism, and body cell signaling.
VITAMIN B6 - One of eight B-complex vitamins, B-6 is needed for amino acid production and cell formation.  It also plays a role in regulating metabolism and in the production of insulin, hemoglobin and infection-fighting antibodies.
MANGANESE - This mineral is an essential partner in bone formation and energy metabolism.
When purchasing, look for berries that are blue to dark blue in color, plump and free of decay.  A silver-white frost (called “bloom”) is normal.  This fruit requires little prep work—simply rinse and drain before enjoying a handful or using in a recipe.  Fresh blueberries can be frozen for later use.  Just place a single layer in a sheet pan, freeze until firm, then place in a air-tight container or plastic bag. 
As part of a balanced diet blueberries offer some of the “berry best” in nutrition!  And while blueberry muffins and pie are always a delicious way to enjoy blueberries, here are a couple of recipes using blueberries in a different and healthy way!