July is Blueberry Month!

I love berries – all sorts of berries, but since July is National Blueberry Month I want to highlight the benefits of this nutritious fruit. July was proclaimed National Blueberry Month in 1999 by the United States Department of Agriculture. Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America and were introduced to the pilgrims by Native Americans.

This miniature fruit is chock full of nutrients and is a superstar when it comes to antioxidant properties. In fact, according to data from the USDA Human Research Center on Aging, a serving of blueberries provides one of the highest levels of antioxidant activity of all fruits and vegetables. This is due to the naturally occurring levels of vitamins C and E, and the phytochemicals which include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, myricetin, quercetin, resveratrol, and ellagic acid. For athletes in particular a high intake of dietary antioxidants can help to reduce damage to cells resulting from the free radical damage produced during strenuous activity. For the less active in the group, nutrients in blueberries have been found through research to have a litany of benefits including lowering the risk of urinary tract infection, protection against cardiovascular disease by lowering total cholesterol and bad or LDL cholesterol, improving eye health, acting as an anti-cancer nutrient, and even improving cognitive function by decreasing short term memory loss (http://www.blueberry.org/Antioxidant.pdf ).

Another good thing know to about blueberries is that blueberries have a fairly low Glycemic Index (GI) score and are in the range of 40-53 out of 100, which means they have a favorable effect on blood sugar. Foods with a low GI help to maintain even energy levels because they are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream than foods with a high GI such as bananas (60-70) and honey which has a score of 87 (http://www.glycemicindex.com/). One cup of blueberries (at around 84 calories) has about 4 grams of fiber which adds to their beneficial effects on blood sugar.

Whether you eat fresh or frozen blueberries, wild, highbrush, lowbrush, or rabbiteye it doesn’t matter as long as you eat them! Research has shown that freezing does not decrease their antioxidant activity, however exposure to heat does so add to uncooked dishes like smoothies, yogurt, and breakfast cereals. If you can, buy organic since blueberries retain a fair amount of pesticide residue due to their delicate nature. They rank #10 on the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods highest in pesticide residue developed by the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/).

For a new twist on a super nutritious fruit in combination with a super nutritious grain, try this breakfast recipe courtesy of The World’s Healthiest Foods: Quinoa Cereal with Fresh Fruit http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=245&tname=recipe