Blueberries prove that pleasurable things can come in small packages. Nature has provided these little gems with exceptional taste, plump juicy sweetness and a powerful dose of nutrients according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
A one-cup serving of blueberries contains only 80 calories and virtually no fat or sodium. Full of dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese, these berries are most known for their health-promoting phytonutrients.
“Blueberries have been shown to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help lessen the inflammatory process associated with many chronic conditions,” said Duitsman. “Research has shown blueberries are beneficial in helping to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental decline and other age-related diseases. They also seem to help with insulin response and building a healthy immune system.”
Blueberries rank the highest of any fruit for antioxidants (those free-radical-fighting compounds). According to Duitsman, a half cup of blueberries provides the antioxidant power of five servings of peas, carrots, apples, squash or broccoli.
“Intensive research by scientists around the world, including here in the U.S., has revealed remarkable neurocognitive benefits from eating blueberries. Memory has been boosted and cognitive function increased in human studies,” said Duitsman.
Animal studies show the mechanism by which blueberries protect the brain may be beneficial in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“It’s easy to find these wonderful berries while in season, at the farmer’s market, u-pick farms, at farm stands and supermarkets,” said Duitsman.
Here are some tips from Duitsman and MU Extension to help with blueberry storage:
Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising. Bruising shortens the life of fruit and contributes to poor quality.
Sort carefully and remove berries that are too soft or decayed.
Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the crushing of berries underneath.
Do not wash berries before refrigerating.
Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such as in the hydrator (vegetable keeper), to help extend the usable life of the fruit. Recommended storage time in the refrigerator is 5 to 6 days.
Before eating berries, wash gently in cold water, lift out of water and drain.
Fresh or frozen
“The protective, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds are found in fresh, frozen or dried blueberries but not in most processed blueberry containing foods,” said Duitsman.
Frozen blueberries are a terrific way to enjoy berries all year round. A person can freeze their own blueberries while they are in season. Place the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze and then transfer them to a freezer bag. Frozen blueberries are bests used within one year.
For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.