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Blueberries: Super Food With Bragging Rights

Blueberries: Super Food With Bragging Rights

By Chef Selwyn Richards
Culinary Columnist

Selwyn RichardsBlueberries are one of the super foods we hear a lot about — and with good reason. These delicious, deep blue summer berries are well-known for their antioxidants, containing the highest amount of any other berries.

However, blueberries have some other specific health benefits that are worth talking about. Let’s take a look.

Big Benefits In A Sweet Little Berry
The list of health benefits from eating blueberries is stacking up, and there aren’t many parts of your body that couldn’t benefit from a little extra blueberry goodness.

If you’re looking for a low-calorie, high-fiber fruit with lots to offer your health, blueberries may be just what you need. One cup of blueberries has less than 100 calories, and offers one-quarter of your daily requirement for Vitamin C.

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, blueberries can boast about nutrients that are significant in keeping your brain healthy. Specifically, scientists claim that blueberries maintain and restore a healthy nervous system, prevent the death of brain cells that lead to health concerns like Alzheimer’s disease, and keep your memory sharp for a long time. That’s a lot of brain power.

Better vision is another benefit associated with consumption of blueberries, due to the fact that they contain compounds called anthocyanosides and flavonoids, which can slow down visual loss, as well as help prevent macular degeneration, myopia, and cataracts.  Blueberries also have some heavy molecules which can help prevent urinary tract infections by washing away harmful bacteria.

Another important antioxidant is anthocyanins, known to benefit the prevention of heart disease and good cardiovascular health. Blueberries have been found to contain even more anthocyanins than red wine, long thought to be one of the better sources of this defender against free radicals. Even hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and peptic ulcers can benefit from the antioxidants found in these super berries.

A couple interesting cautions regarding blueberries are coming to light. Apparently, the protein in milk depletes the antioxidant power of the acids contained in blueberries. One study suggests eating blueberries either one hour before or two hours after drinking milk. So, blueberries on your morning cereal may not be, nutritiously speaking, the wise thing to do. Instead, choose blueberries as a high-energy late morning snack or to top off a green salad.

Another interesting aspect of blueberries is that they contain oxalates, which can become concentrated and crystallize, creating some concern for those with a tendency for gallstones or kidney stones.  As with other life choices, do all things in moderation and pay attention to allergies and other health concerns before indulging. But, for the vast majority, blueberries offer a wealth of nutrients that will benefit our health and well-being.

Blueberries 1How to Select and Enjoy Blueberries
With so many health benefits, the question is not whether to eat blueberries, but how to eat them. First, you need to pick good specimens. Choose blueberries that are firm and uniform in color, not dull-looking or watery.

In fact, water will cause the berries to spoil more quickly, so they should be kept in dry containers in the refrigerator. For this reason, you’ll also want to dry blueberries thoroughly after you wash them.

If you can’t buy fresh, buy frozen.  Blueberries freeze nicely and can be purchased whole or smashed. When you want to eat them, just thaw and enjoy.  If frozen blueberries are used in cooking, you can thaw them or throw them into the recipe frozen and just adjust your cooking time slightly.

You’ll find blueberry recipes in every section of a cookbook.  From breakfast to breads, salads to sauces, and desserts to drinks, blueberries can be enjoyed from morning to night. Even without a cookbook handy, you can eat blueberries very simply as a ‘one ingredient’ super-food snack.

If you’re looking for an easy to eat super-food that is loaded with not only nutrition, but flavor and versatility, get to know this beautiful berry.  Perfect as a snack, a dessert, or any number of dishes, blueberries definitely earn their place in your kitchen, and your healthy diet.

Note:  Blueberries have a very brief season; don’t miss them.  For pick-your-own farms in Ontario, the season starts late July and ends Labour Day weekend, depending on weather and crop conditions.

Selwyn Richards is an award-winning master chef. He is also the President and Executive Chef at The Art of Catering Inc. and is the author of “The Art of Cooking: Soul of The Caribbean”. Chef Selwyn can be reached at: selwyn@theartofcatering.com or by phone — (905) 619-1059.

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