Last weekend our friends gifted us with a bag of fresh blueberries they hand-picked at an East Texas blueberry farm. And how incredibly delicious they were! Nothing is as good as fruit fresh from the tree or vine. With July the peak season for blueberries, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaimed July as National Blueberry Month. Celebrate the month and the sweet goodness of blueberries by purchasing some at their lowest price of the year in your local grocery store or farmers’ market, picking your own at a nearby farm or finding a local Blueberry Festival in your state.
Blueberries are not only are delicious but also nutritious. With just 40 calories in a half-cup serving, they are packed with anthocyanins, a phytonutrient that is responsible for blueberries’ blue color. Anthocyanins reduce risk factors for arthritis and heart disease, aid in muscle recovery after exercise, help control blood pressure and fight inflammation. In addition, blueberries deliver healthy doses of vitamin C, fiber and manganese.
While blueberries’ peak season is July, you can enjoy them year round by purchasing them frozen. Fruits are frozen soon after harvesting so they retain their peak nutritional value. And berries will keep in the freezer for several months so there’s no food waste. You can even save money by freezing them yourself. When you buy them in season they’re usually at their lowest price.
One of my favorite ways to eat blueberries is stirred into aspartame-sweetened light Greek vanilla yogurt topped with a little crunchy cereal for dessert at lunch. I generally use the frozen kind, slightly thawed in the microwave at 50% power for 45 seconds. Blueberries are also great on dry cereal and oatmeal or blended in a smoothie at breakfast, mixed with cottage cheese as a snack or used as an ingredient in breads, desserts, salads or entrees. Try a low sugar version of Blueberry Pie, a Cucumber, Celery, Blueberry & Pistachio Salad or an entrée like Blueberry and Provolone Stuffed Chicken.
It’s obvious that blueberries are a flavorful and versatile fruit packed with nutrition and health benefits, making it an easy way to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables. So next time you’re in the supermarket or stop at a farmers’ market, be sure to look for these little blue gems to enjoy in a variety of ways.
Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She serves as a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including the Calorie Control Council. She is passionate about promoting fact-based food and nutrition information to help people enjoy nutritious eating. Follow her on Twitter @NevaRDLD and check out her blog at www.NevaCochranRD.com.