It’s the summer blues season, and it is the perfect time to enjoy nature’s bountiful blueberry harvest in full swing. Prime blueberry season runs from mid June to mid August. In fact, New England hiking enthusiasts may happen to find a patch of smaller, wild blueberries on their off trail hiking treks.
Blueberries are a nutritional bonanza of health enhancing compounds ranging from antioxidants, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, to phenolic acids. Researchers at Tufts University recently conducted an analysis of 60 fruits and vegetables, and rated the brightly colored blueberry with the highest antioxidant capacity to destroy free radicals.
Concerned about health issues such as looking and feeling younger? The oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC), a new laboratory test developed exclusively by USDA researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, rated the blueberry per 100 grams as having a whopping 2,400 point value.
In layman’s terms, that means that blueberries has one of the highest antioxidant capability to fight the oxidative stresses of everyday exposures to air pollutants, unhealthy food and drink, excessive sun exposure, and man made chemicals that are implicated in everything from wrinkling and aging of skin to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and others.
This oxidative stress that occurs to our bodies is under a constant, daily assault and can be compared to what happens to a piece of iron when left outside in the rain. This build up of rust that accumulates will gradually weaken, and eventually break down, the physical body making it vulnerable to developing diseases.
To help fight this damage naturally, one needs to give serious thought to eating, at least, 9 servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a handful of blueberries, along with a wide variety of other fresh plant food sources every day, helps enable people to lead physically healthier lives.
The health enhancing effects of eating blueberries have been well documented for several years now, in being able to help protect against the development of degenerative health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, macular degeneration, brain illnesses, gastrointestinal health problems, and cancer.
With so many different substances found in blueberries, researchers aren’t sure which ones have the most important health benefits. One thing they all pretty much agree on is, that eating the whole fruit is much better for your health than using certain extracts of the berry alone.
So, whether you pick them up at your local produce section at your favorite market, locally cultivated and grown, or find them growing wild, definitely select the deepest, darkest blue colored skin on the berries. They will also be covered in a light chalky white residue, this is normal.
If you wish to store your best find, rather than eat them right away, do not wash them before refrigeration. They will keep relatively well, unwashed, in the fridge for 7 to 10 days. Before eating them, stem and sort out the shriveled or moldy berries and wash.
Interested in long-term storage, by enjoying them through the winter? Blueberries freeze particularly well, due to their low water content, and will keep in the freezer for up to a year. They also retain much of their nutritional content when frozen. Simply lay a single layer of unwashed, dry blueberries out on a cookie sheet and freeze. Washing them before freezing will compromise the texture and toughen the skins. Transfer the frozen berries into dry pack freezer bags or cartons. Take out what you will be using, wash, and incorporate them into your favorite recipes.
With one of the lowest calorie content found anywhere in a fruit, at about 80 calories per cup, eating them liberally is not going to pack on the pounds. The sweet, luscious blueberry has a nutritional health profile fit for any health conscious dieter. A one cup serving of this fresh fruit also provides 5 grams of fiber and gives you you 15 percent of your daily intake value of vitamin C.
Blueberries are easily voted, no hands down, one of the the healthiest fruits in North America, with one of the highest antioxidant content of any known fruit. I don’t know about you, but this all sounds pretty good to me. I think I’ll through a pint of blueberries in my shopping cart tomorrow. Besides being so good for you, they are also quite pleasant to eat.