Wild Food Profile: Blueberry
Blueberry has the scientific name Vaccinium Corymbosum. Blueberries are native to North America, but they also do well in Europe and Asia. They are grown commercially in New Zealand, South America and the Southern Hemisphere in Australia.
The United States is the leading producer of blueberries with Canada and Mexico following in second and third places respectively. They are prostrate shrubs that can grow to a height of 4 meters. The leaves of these prostrate shrubs can be ovate, lanceolate, deciduous or evergreen.
They have bell-shaped flowers that are either pale pink or red. At times, the flowers can be tinged greenish. The berry fruit of this plant has a diameter of 0.63 inches with a flared crown at the end.
They change from pale green to reddish purple then finally take a dark purple tint when ripe. A powdery epicuticular wax covers the berry fruit. The blueberry has a sweet taste when they mature.
When is the harvesting season?
The harvest season varies according to geographic location. In North America for instance, the season may begin in May and end in late summer. Areas within the Southern Hemisphere, however, have longer periods of harvest.
Technological advancements have overshadowed traditional blueberries hand-picking methods. Today, modern farmers only need machine harvesters to shake the berries off highbush prostrate shrubs.
Quick Facts on Blueberries
- Anthocyanin is the plant compound responsible for giving blueberries their color and nutritional benefits.
- A cup of blueberries has vitamin c, vitamin k, fiber, lutein, gallic acid, resveratrol, zeaxanthin and manganese in small portions.
- Blueberries have an ORAC score of 9,621 making it rank among the highest antioxidant foods.
- They help strengthen the bones, improve heart health and manage diabetes among other health benefits.
- They are a healthy source of food and can also be used to top waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, and pancakes.
The numerous health benefits of Blueberries
Studies suggest that fruits and vegetables help reduce the risk of most lifestyle-related health problems. Plant foods like blueberries have long been associated with reducing the risk of obesity and heart disease.
They equally help promote healthy hair and skin while reducing weight. While the list of their health benefits is long, here are the top health benefits that are backed by research.
- Maintain healthy bones
Blueberries have zinc, iron and phosphorous among other nutritional minerals. Adequate consumption of these minerals helps build and maintain bone structure and strength.
- Prevent Cancer
Antioxidants inhibit tumor growth and reduce inflammation in the body. Vitamin C and A are among the most powerful antioxidants in the fruit that protect the cells against attacks from disease-linked free radicals.
- Improve skin health
Skin care products with blueberry extracts are growing popular by the day. Vitamin C is the essential nutrient that helps prevent skin damage and smooth wrinkles. A cup of blueberries gives you 24 percent of the daily recommended Vitamin C allowance. They remain an excellent home remedy for acne.
- Weight Loss
Blueberries are low in calories but are rich in fiber. They are equally low on the glycemic index thus help control appetite and delay hunger. This makes them the perfect food to eat to lose and maintain weight.
- Promote heart health
Blueberries contain Vitamin B6, folate, potassium and fiber that support heart health. Regular consumption of blueberries helps decrease the risk of heart attacks by 33 percent. Furthermore, blueberries also lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Manage Diabetes
One cup of blueberries provides 3.6 grams of fiber to the body. Patients with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber foods will have low blood glucose levels while people with type 2 diabetes have improved lipid, blood sugar, and insulin levels.
- Healthy digestion
Blueberries are a natural source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. They help prevent constipation and maintain regularity to give you a healthy digestive tract.
- Low blood pressure
High blood is a key driver to heart attacks and stroke. Regular consumption of 50 grams of blueberries helps lower blood pressure.
- Contribute to improving Memory
The antioxidants in blueberries accumulate in parts of the brain essential for intelligence. Blueberries, therefore, help to improve the brain function.
- Fight urinary tract infections
This is a common problem among women. Fortunately, blueberries have active substances that help prevent bacteria like E. coil from binding to the urinary bladder wall.
- Improve eyesight
If you are struggling with poor eyesight, you may want to consider adding blueberries in your next meal. Research shows that blueberries have essential nutrients that can help protect the eyes from unwanted sunlight or oxygen damage.
4 Healthy ways to eat blueberries
Blueberries remain many people’s favorite fruits because of their numerous health benefits. There are many reasons why you should consider this superfood in your next meal aside from the health benefits listed above. Here are three ways to eat blueberries if you want to get the most nutrients.
- Eat them raw
Just like many fruits and vegetables, eating blueberries raw will give you the most health benefits. This is, therefore, the best and healthiest way to eat blueberries. A handful of fresh and ripe blueberries have the juicy nutritional flavor that gives your body a lot of health benefits.
- Add to salads, cereals, and sauces
Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries are an excellent addition to salads, cereals or sauces because they introduce a sweet, mouthwatering flavor to your food especially in hot cereals.
- Add to baked goods
Frozen blueberries make your desert healthier and yummy. Therefore, if you plant to prepare bread, muffins, pancakes, pies or fudge, don’t forget to include blueberries as your special ingredient.
- Add as flavoring for smoothies and yogurt
Frozen berries are the best choice to use in smoothies and yogurt. They not only add flavor but also thicken their consistency as well. The juicy taste of blueberries can turn unsweetened yogurt in a sweet and tangy treat.
One last thing
For the best results and to reap the most health benefits of blueberries, it is important to consume them consistently in large quantities on a daily basis. According to recent studies, people who take at least two and a half cups of blueberries every day enjoy the most health benefits of this superfood.