Can’t remember where you put the car keys? Feeling the signs of getting older? A recent United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study on aging rats revealed a diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination, and improved short-term memory. July is National Blueberry Month, a great opportunity to add a little blue to your diet. You may even get a memory boost from the berry dubbed the “brain-berry”.
For centuries, people have enjoyed the flavor, color and smell of blueberries. Although they are small, don’t let their size fool you! Blueberries are a superfood with high nutritional value. Blueberries get their deep-blue color from a pigment called anthocyanin. This chemical compound is a phytochemical and one of the healthiest weapons in the battle against aging. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. Berries, especially blueberries, are rich in phytochemicals,which act as anti-oxidants in the body, helping lower the risk of some cancers and promote urinary tract health. Blueberries have a long list of health benefits.
In studies by Tufts University in Boston, blueberries consistently scored higher than other fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant activity. The study concluded that increasing dietary intake of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidant activity may be an important component of a healthy living strategy designed to maximize cognitive function into old age.
Blueberries are low in fat, sodium free, high in fiber and rich in vitamin C. One cup of fresh blueberries provides five grams of fiber – more than most fruits and veggies— and 15% of the daily USDA recommendation for vitamin C for only 80 calories.
Fruits and vegetables are foods that should be eaten often, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For most people, this means more than doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat daily. You may be asking how much you need? The recommended amounts vary for age and gender, but as a general guideline make fruits and vegetables about half of what you eat, every time you eat.
When buying blueberries, choose ones that are plump, firm and a frosted indigo color. Blueberries do not ripen after picking, so avoid purchasing berries that aren’t fully ripened.
Blueberries should be consumed within a week after purchase. Never allow blueberries to dry out. Use a damp paper towel to help keep moisture in the package, but do not rinse them until it is time to eat them.
Freezing blueberries is easy. Do not wash blueberries before freezing. The waxy coating protects them when frozen. Arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan, and freeze until berries are frozen. This way, they will freeze evenly, and you won’t end up with a brick of frozen blueberries. After they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer container or a plastic freezer bag. Once they have been frozen, they can be stored for up to six months.
When using frozen berries, rinse in cold water and use immediately. There’s no need to thaw them if you use them in baked products, except for pancakes. Pancakes may not cook thoroughly in the center if the berries are frozen. Microwave the amount you need for a few seconds to thaw.
You may wish to drain, rinse, and pat dry canned blueberries before adding to your recipe to avoid the color bleeding into the final product.
When improvising by adding blueberries to a recipe, keep in mind that those recipes which include an alkaline such as baking soda may cause an ugly brownish-green tinge to your recipe due to a chemical reaction. Baking soda is usually included in recipes using an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk or yogurt. Try substituting regular milk for buttermilk and baking powder for the baking soda to avoid discoloration.
While blueberries may not find your keys for you, they can be part of a healthy lifestyle that helps maintain and protect brain function, balance and coordination as aging occurs, and lowers the risk of some cancers. Blueberries couldn’t be a more effortless fruit. There’s no peeling, coring or cutting — just eat and enjoy!
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