Friday, August 08, 2008


Blueberry season brings an array of healthy alternatives

One of my favorite times of the year is when blueberries are in season. The high bush variety can be harvested from mid April through October, reaching its peak in July.

Fresh blueberries will keep 7-10 days in the fridge and frozen for up to one year. My favorite way to freeze them is to spread unwashed fresh berries on a cookie sheet, and cover with plastic wrap. After a few hours I transfer the frozen berries into plastic freezer bags, date, label and freeze. This prevents the berries from sticking together and I think more “user friendly.”

These little blue globes of goodness are a win-win in my book. Not only are they delicious and bursting with flavor — they pack a powerful antioxidant punch.

According to the U.S. Highberry Blueberry Council these succulent fruits host many health benefits. Compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables, researchers at the USDA found blueberries rank #1 in antioxidant activity.

Think of anti-oxidants as chemicals that “combat the rust.” They reduce stress from oxidation that can cause damage to cells and lead to diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and help to combat the effects of aging.

Based on the premise that oxidative stress may lead to the age-related decline in brain function, scientists investigated whether blueberries could improve memory function and motor skills in aged laboratory rats and mice — and found they did. Researchers are now studying how blueberries may improve brain function by looking at the chemistry of the brain.

Another benefit of blueberries is that they contain proanthocyanidins, which are substances that may help prevent urinary tract infections by preventing harmful bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. The rationale is that if the bacteria cannot attach, they cannot multiply to cause infection.

Also, the anti-oxidant anthocyanin (and the reason blueberries are blue) may help reduce inflammation and ease eye fatigue.

Besides housing these anti-rust chemicals, blueberries are nutritious for other reasons, too. They have high water content so they are naturally low in calories (1 cup of fresh blueberries provides about 80 calories and 4 grams of fiber).

They are also a source of beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin K.

In addition to this, blueberries are a versatile fruit. From beverages to jams to quick breads to desserts or sauces, they add sweetness and vibrant color to a variety of foods.

Use them as a colorful addition to fruit salad or a delicious topping for yogurt or cereal. Blend them with ice cubes, skim milk and yogurt to make a healthy breakfast smoothie. The possibilities are endless.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is in blueberry pancakes. Here is a recipe that my husband and I especially enjoy: The whole wheat pastry flour provides a source of whole grain and fiber and tenderness to the pancakes.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes:
1 large egg (I use Omega 3 fortified eggs)
1 Tbsp lemon juice & skim milk to equal one cup of liquid
1 Tbsp. Canola oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps. Baking powder
½ tsp. Baking soda
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries, drained

Mix lemon juice with enough skim milk to equal one cup — let sit for five minutes. Mix milk mixture, egg, oil and honey. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients, then add the blueberries. Combine both mixtures just until blended and wet ingredients are moistened-batter will be lumpy. Using ¼ cup batter for each pancake, cook on pre-heated griddle at 400° F that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Makes 2-4 servings.

Catherine Schneider is a Registered Dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Ms. Schneider and all of the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

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