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Food of the Month


Blueberries

They say that good things come in small packages—and that’s especially true for the blueberry

Antioxidant Powerhouse

These blueberries rank number 1 in the world of antioxidants. This is mainly due to presence of anthocyanin, a pigment responsible for the berries’ blue color. What is surprising about the blueberry research is its “whole body relevance.” It is not only the cardiovascular system that has been shown to have a strengthened antioxidant level following consumption of blueberries. It is virtually every body system studied to date! This whole-body antioxidant support helps blueberries stand out as an amazing antioxidant fruit.

Eye Health

Blueberries can prevent or delay age-related ocular problems like macular degeneration, cataracts, myopia and hypermetropia, dryness, and infections, particularly those pertaining to the retina, due to their antioxidant properties.

Prevents Bladder Infections

Blueberries contain the same compounds found in cranberries that prevent the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections from adhering to the bladder wall. The berries have a compound formed of large, polymer-like molecules that inhibit the growth of bacteria. Certain antibiotic properties add to this effect. These heavy molecules scrub the bacteria off the walls along the tract, thereby preventing the infection.

Aids Digestion

While the fiber in a couple of handfuls of blueberries prevents constipation, the vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose, and acids improve digestion by stimulating the correct gastric and digestive juices to move food smoothly and safely through the gastrointestinal system. The soluble fiber present in blueberries can absorb 10 to 15 times its own weight in water, drawing fluid into your gut and increasing bowel movements.

Improves Brain Function

Studies show that blueberries might turn out to be beneficial not only for improvement of memory, but for slowing down or postponing the onset of other cognitive problems frequently associated with aging. These “brain berries” also help in maintaining the health of the central nervous system.

Tips for Selecting and Storing Blueberries

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Selecting:

  • Blueberry season is from May to September.
  • Look for berries with a silvery “bloom”; this is a natural protective coating.
  • When buying fresh blueberries look for firm, dry fruit that is smooth and relatively free of stems and leaves.
  • While size is not an indicator of maturity, color is. Berries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black in color.
  • Avoid containers of berries with juice stains, which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy.
  • Shake the container, noticing whether the berries have the tendency to move freely; if they do not, this may indicate that they are soft and damaged or moldy.
  • Soft, watery fruit means that berries are overripe, while wrinkled fruit means they have been stored too long.

Storage:

  • They should be refrigerated as quickly as possible and kept dry.
  • Do not wash until you are ready to use them. Fresh berries are very fragile and should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently patted dry.
  • They will last for up to a week if stored properly.
  • You can easily freeze blueberries for future use. Recent research has shown that fresh blueberries can be frozen without damaging their delicate antioxidants. The secret is to use berries that are completely dry before freezing.
  • When purchasing frozen berries, shake the bag gently to ensure that the berries move freely and are not clumped together; this may suggest that they have been thawed and refrozen.

Blueberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. That is because their nutrients—including vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes – undergo damage when exposed to temperatures (175°C and higher) used in baking.

According to the Environmental Working Group, blueberries (grown in the United States) are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of blueberries unless they have been grown organically. Also, organically grown blueberries were found to have a significantly higher antioxidant concentration.

Serving Suggestions

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  • Add frozen blueberries to your breakfast shake.
  • Add a splash to drinks. Whether it’s a glass of juice or sparkling water, add blueberries for a refreshing treat.
  • Fresh or dried blueberries add a colorful punch to cold breakfast cereals or oatmeal.
  • For a deliciously elegant dessert, layer yogurt and blueberries in wine glasses and top with crystallized ginger.
  • Curb your appetite with a snack of frozen blueberries.
  • Spruce up a dinner salad with blueberries. Fruit salads with peaches, pineapple, mango, and blueberries are wonderful complements to each other. Blueberries, strawberries, and bananas work especially well together. Sprinkle blueberries on a Waldorf salad or chicken salad. Add fresh blueberries to a lettuce or spinach salad.
  • Dip your blueberries in vanilla Greek yogurt and freeze on wax paper. Grab a handful every time you reach into the freezer for a blast of protein and antioxidants!

Recipes:

Blueberry Salsa

Blueberry Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped fresh blueberries
1 cup whole fresh blueberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 seeded and minced jalapeño peppers
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Coarsely chop 2 cups fresh blueberries.
  2. Stir chopped fresh blueberries with all other ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Blueberry, Watermelon Quinoa Salad

Blueberry, Watermelon Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed under cold water
1 cup water
2 cups cubed watermelon
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tablespoon sundried tomato olive oil (or regular olive oil)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoon blanched, slivered almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan for 1-2 minutes
1/4 cup gruyere cheese, cut into small cubes (you can also substitute feta or omit entirely)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1.   Add the rinsed the quinoa along with the cup of water to a medium pot.
2.   Bring the water to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
3.   When done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.
4.   In a large bowl, toss the watermelon, blueberries, sundried tomatoes, basil, almonds and gruyere.
5.   Add the cooled quinoa, oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve lukewarm or chilled.

Chicken-Blueberry Salad

Chicken-Blueberry Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups torn mixed salad greens
1 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Whisk together first six ingredients.
  2. Reserve half of mixture and chill.
  3. Place chicken in a shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag.
  4. Pour remaining mixture over chicken.
  5. Cover or seal and chill at least one hour.
  6. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade.
  7. Grill over medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees) 6 minutes on each side or until done.
  8. Cut into thin slices.
  9. Combine celery and next three ingredients.
  10. Add reserved dressing, tossing to coat.
  11. Place chicken over greens.
  12. Top with celery mixture and sprinkle with berries.

Greek Yogurt, Chocolate, Walnut, and Wild Blueberry Parfaits

Greek Yogurt, Chocolate, Walnut, and Wild Blueberry Parfaits

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
2 cups nonfat Greek-style yogurt
2 1/2 tablespoons mini dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup oat granola

  1. Spoon one tablespoon fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries into each of four parfait glasses.
  2. Spoon 1/4 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt over berries in each glass.
  3. Top each with one teaspoon mini dark chocolate chips, one tablespoon oat granola, and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts
  4. Add another layer of the berries, yogurt, chocolate, walnuts, and granola to each glass.
  5. Serve.