Bountiful blueberries pack a powerful dose of flavor, nutrition
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Blueberries prove that good things can come in small packages. Nature has provided these little gems with exceptional taste, juicy plump sweetness, and a powerful dose of nutrition according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
It is easy to find these wonderful berries while in season at the farmers’ markets, u-pick farms, at farm stands and supermarkets.
“Blueberries contain few calories, and virtually no fat or sodium, are full of dietary fiber and vitamin C and are most known for their health-promoting phytonutrients,” says Duitsman.
Blueberries contain phytonutrients in the flavonoid family known as anthocyanins, which are responsible for giving blueberries their deep red, purple and blue hues. Anthocyanins also contribute to the popular fruit’s numerous health benefits.
“Additionally, blueberries contain a diverse range of phenolic compounds – all of which contribute to their high antioxidant capacity,” Duitsman explains. “The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of blueberries can help lessen the inflammatory process associated with many chronic conditions.”
These large amounts of bioactive compounds help blueberries rank high on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), which rates foods based on their vitamin and mineral content, phytochemical composition and antioxidant capacity. Foods containing the most nutrients per calorie have the highest rankings, and blueberries score among the top 20 fruits and vegetables.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods such as blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while at the same time promoting overall health.
“More research is needed to understand these links. We can say that consumption of blueberries has been associated with many health benefits,” says Duitsman.
Storing blueberries to avoid spoilage
Here are some tips to help you store blueberries for future use.
- Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising which contributes to low quality.
- Sort carefully and remove berries that are too soft or decayed.
- Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation.
- 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 to five or six days.
- Before eating berries, wash gently in cold water, lift out of water and drain.
“The health protective, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds in blueberries are found in fresh, frozen or dried blueberries but not found in many processed blueberry containing foods,” said Duitsman.
Frozen blueberries are a great way to enjoy berries all year round. It is possible to freeze your blueberries while they are in season.
For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in the Ozarks: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online at Extension.missouri.edu.