Blueberries have become one of my favorite fruits. They are power packed with nutrients and taste great. Whether you prefer sweet or tart, blueberries have a perfect blend of flavor and give you energy for your day.
I just heard a recent study that said that mixing blueberries in your oatmeal brought out the best in both of these nutritious foods. The study on fruit pairing was conducted by Tufts University researchers and published in The Journal of Nutrition and observed that when vitamin C was added to oat phytochemicals, the amount of time LDL was protected from oxidation increased from 137 to 216 minutes. Blueberries are an excellent source of manganese and vitamins C and K, and a good source of dietary fiber. They’re also on the American Institute for Cancer Research’s list of Foods that Fight Cancer because of their concentrations of ellagic acid, which laboratory studies have shown may help prevent certain cancers.
As one of the few fruits native to North America, blueberries have been enjoyed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They have also enjoyed great popularity around the world in cuisines from Asia to the Mediterranean.
Blueberries used to be picked solely by hand until the invention of the blueberry rake by Abijah Tabbutt of Maine in 1822, so it’s no wonder that Maine’s state berry is the blueberry. Wild blueberry is the official fruit of Maine, but Hammonton, N.J. claims to be the “Blueberry Capital of the World.”
When Europeans arrived on the continent, the Native Americans were already enjoying blueberries year-round. They dried blueberries in the sun and added them whole to soups, stews and meat, or crushed them into a powder rubbed into meat as a preservative. According to legend, Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims to help them make it through their first winter.
The Native Americans were just as energized by blueberries as people are today, and developed folklore around the dynamic little blue fruit. Tribal elders recounted how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to ease the children’s hunger during a famine. They called blueberries “star berries” because the blossom end of each berry, called the calyx, forms a perfect five-pointed star.
For many years, blueberries were simply handpicked. In today’s more modern times, traditional hand picking is still quite common especially for the more delicate varieties. Farmers will often use harvesters that will shake the fruit off the bush. The fruit is then brought to a cleaning and packaging facility where it is cleaned, packaged, and then sold.
New studies make it clear that we can freeze dry blueberries and other fruit without doing damage to their delicate anthocyanin antioxidants. There’s no question about the delicate nature of many antioxidant nutrients found in blueberries. These antioxidants include many different types of anthocyanin, the colorful pigments that give many foods their wonderful shades of blue, purple, and red.
Berries in general are considered low in terms of their glycemic index (GI). GI is a common way of identifying the potential impact of a food on our blood sugar level once we’ve consumed and digested that food. In general, foods with a GI of 50 or below are considered “low” in terms of their glycemic index value. When compared to other berries, blueberries are not particularly low in terms of their GI. Studies show the GI for blueberries as falling somewhere in the range of 40-53, with berries like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries repeatedly scoring closer to 30 than to 40. However, a recent study including blueberries as a low-GI fruit has found that blueberries, along with other berries, clearly have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Consuming at least 3 servings of low-GI fruits per day (including blueberries) helped participants see significant improvement in their regulation of blood sugar over a three-month period of time. (Their blood levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, or HgA1C were used as the standard of measurement in this study.) It’s great to see blueberries providing these clear health benefits for blood sugar regulation!
Blueberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings.
There are so many different ways to enjoy blueberries. Add them into your oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, yogurt, and cereal or eat them plain. They can be put on salads or mixed into a fruit bowl. Some people like to add it as topping to their ice cream. How many ways can you think of to try Honeyville’s Freeze Dried Blueberries?