Meet the blueberry
The first commercial crop of highbush blueberries didn’t head to market until 1916 in New Jersey, but the tiny blue super food would gain worldwide popularity over the next 100 years. Blueberries today are a superstar of nutrition and heralded for their brain and heart boosting benefits.
More than one billion pounds of blueberries are produced each year on five continents, with the United States leading the way with 35 states supplying the crop. Blueberries now are referred to as “little blue dynamos” because they are:
• Low in fat – one cup serving has only 80 calories
• High in vitamin C – one serving delivers 25% of the daily requirement of vitamin C
• Full of dietary fiber – one serving provides about 14% of the daily fiber requirement
• An excellent source of manganese – plays an important role in bone development
It’s no wonder blueberries are tossed into salads, added to cereals, sprinkled on ice cream, and stirred into sauces. People of all ages eat this power-packed fruit by the handful.
“The blueberry is a familiar ingredient in our kitchen,” said Anne Dean, director of dining services at Covenant Village of Turlock, a senior living community located in Turlock. “Our residents are mindful about eating foods that improve their health and brain function. We make it easy for them by paying attention to the research and incorporating key ingredients, like blueberries, into a variety of delicious meals or simple snacks.”
The power of the blueberry
Blueberries can help prevent brain aging by 7.5 years, according to a new study from Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, which found adhering to the MIND diet (a blend of the Mediterranean and DASH diets) helped reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive degeneration.
“Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” explained Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a nutritional epidemiologist who co-developed the MIND diet.
Blueberries are good for the heart, too. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, researchers believe the antioxidants found in blueberries help reduce the buildup of “bad” LDL cholesterol in artery walls that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Studies conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Center have found that blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant activity when compared with 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Picking the perfect blueberries
Frozen, dried or fresh, blueberries’ nutritional value remains the same. When buying fresh blueberries at the market, color and texture matter more than size. Blueberries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black and feel firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned to the touch. Rinse them just before snacking and eat them within 10 days. Be sure to refrigerate them.
Part of your daily menu
Blueberries have earned a well-deserved place on your plate several times each week. There are numerous ways to incorporate the tiny blue dynamo into your meal plan, from pizza to parfaits.
— Covenant Village of Turlock is a faith-based, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, one of the nation’s largest senior services providers. To learn more about Covenant Village or upcoming programming relevant to seniors, visit www.covenantvillageofturlock.org or call 877-834-1238.