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Eating Well With Whole Foods: Blueberries

by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski


Blueberries were a staple of the Native Indian diet, and one of the few fruits indigenous to North America, yet the berries were not commonly consumed by the colonists until the mid-19th century. Blueberries only became commercially available in 1916 when a USDA botanist, who pioneered research into blueberry production, spearheaded its cultivation. Found abundantly growing in mountainous and woody regions throughout the U.S., the blueberry is a rarity in Europe and just recently has been introduced in Australia. While the U.S. and Canada are the biggest producers and consumers of the blueberry, the Japanese are quickly capturing market share. As knowledge of the blueberry’s nutritious value spread, so has demand. A member of the Ericaceae family, and a relative of the cranberry, bilberry, azalea and rhododendron, the blueberry comes in 30 different varieties including the Highbush - most popular along the Eastern seaboard, the Lowbush - common throughout the Northeast and Eastern Canada, and the Evergreen - abundant in the Pacific Northwest. Varying in size from that of a tiny pea to a marble, and deep vibrant hues from blue to purplish black, cultivated versions are sweeter than wild berries which can be quite tart. What better time to enjoy this refreshing gem than during the dog days of summer when the berry is at its peak.

An antioxidant powerhouse, blueberries beat out dozens of other fruits and veggies in recent studies in its ability to destroy free radicals and prevent colon cancer. Full of phytonutrients like anthocyanidins, which give berries its rich blue-purplish color, and ellagic acid, a blueberry rich diet helps prevent cell damage, a leading cause of many conditions and diseases ranging from cataracts to cancer. Rich in fiber, manganese and vitamins C and E, blueberries are also good for glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers and heart disease. Move over red wine! While wine is touted as a cardiovascular protector research shows blueberries are nearly 40% more powerful in promoting a healthy heart. An excellent digestive aid, blueberries help relieve diarrhea and constipation due to its fiber and tannin that reduces inflammation. Like cranberries, blueberries contain compounds that help prevent urinary tract infection by reducing the ability of bacteria to attach to the urethra and bladder. Blueberries also support mental acuity by protecting the brain from oxidative stress, responsible for age-related disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

When purchasing blueberries select ones that are firm and dry with a uniform hue colored with a whitish bloom. A simple and fast way to check the freshness of blueberries is to shake the container. The blueberries should move easily; if not, they are probably damaged. Blueberries are best eaten within a few days of purchase but will store for a week in the refrigerator if placed unwashed in a covered container. Just remember to remove any damaged berries to prevent infecting the others. Blueberries will last up to one year when frozen and are a delicious summer treat straight from the freezer popped right into your mouth or added to your favorite breakfast shake. Topped on oatmeal, mixed with yogurt and granola, baked into whole grain muffins, or simply enjoyed fresh or frozen by the handful, blueberries are one of nature’s most delicious and nutritious treats. For a quick antioxidant boost, toss some blueberries into your summer salads and sauces and experiment with them in concocting flavorful fruit chutneys and delectable dressings.

 

Blueberry-Banana Breakfast Brain Boost

 

½ cup plain unsweetened soy milk

¼ cup drained silken tofu

½ small frozen banana

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 Tbsp flaxseeds, ground

ice (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Suzann Pileggi is a certified holistic health counselor. She works with clients on nourishing their body and soul by helping them make better food and lifestyle choices. She uses food to naturally increase energy, control cravings and create a balanced lifestyle. She conducts special sugar seminars at Radu’s Physical Culture gym in NYC. Visit her website at www.suzannpileggi.com , email her at suzannpileggi@aol.com, or call her at (646) 265-9055 for a FREE initial holistic health consultation. Phone consultations and group seminars available.


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