They may be small, but this blue fruit packs a powerful punch. In fact, just one cup provides a fourth of the daily requirement of vitamin C and manganese, as well as vitamin K, along with a host of other nutrients in smaller quantities. All these and a considerable amount of fiber come with very few calories, making blueberries a sweet snack that everyone can enjoy.
Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, a group of antioxidant flavonoids that give plant parts red, blue and purple colors. The deep purplish-blue color of blueberries is a visual marker of their antioxidant power, which is thought to be responsible for many of their health benefits.
Blueberries and your brain
It’s a well-known fact that oxidative stress can accelerate your brain’s aging process and negatively affect your brain function. Antioxidants in blueberries benefit aging neurons by arresting or even reversing, this process, leading to improvements in cell signaling. Moreover, laboratory studies in animals have shown that these chemicals directly affect areas of the brain that are essential for cognitive function.
Promising results have been observed in human studies, too. Drinking blueberry juice for three months brought about significant improvement in a small group of older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Another long-term study on an extensive group of 16,000 older individuals found that regular consumption of these berries delayed mental aging by up to 2.5 years.
Big yields and big taste
Blueberries produce substantial yield even when grown in small pots. Apart from this, blueberries are a superfood that tastes great and are not difficult to grow. Best of all, you can incorporate them into your diet in so many different ways.
Eat or drink them fresh
The simplest way to boost your brain health, and also derive all the other benefits from blueberries, is to snack on the fresh berries throughout the day. Try freezing them and eating them for a treat on a hot day. Frozen berries are not only refreshing but also delicious.
Sweeten your smoothies
Blueberries offer just enough sweetness to make them a popular ingredient in smoothies. They are particularly well-suited to smoothies made with bananas and non-dairy milk. Throw in some chia seeds, a little kale, and you have a well-rounded breakfast smoothie that will provide energy to take on your day.
Add them to baked goods
A few of these tiny fruits can be added whole to your pancake, muffins, and cakes without altering your regular recipes. They provide a delightful textural variation, in addition to making the snacks more colorful and healthy.
Use them as colorful toppings
Whole blueberries also make great toppings on salads, puddings, pies, tarts, and homemade ice cream…yummy!
Make blueberry jelly and jam
To make jelly, slightly crush blueberries and cook them down with half the quantity of raw sugar by volume. You may add lemon juice or crushed strawberries or raspberries for some acidity to counteract the sweetness. You may also need to add pectin, 1½ tsp to every cup of jelly, to make it set.
An alternative is making a quick-fix jam with chia seeds, which would give you the additional benefit of omega 3s. Once the mixture of mashed berries, lemon juice, and sugar is cooked down to a syrupy consistency, stir in 1½ tsp chia seeds per cup to thicken it up. Refrigerate and use within 2-3 weeks.
Make frozen desserts
Freeze small portions of blueberries in individual Ziploc covers to make frozen desserts even when they are not in season. Blend them with cream or yogurt for a quick dessert. For a dairy-free option, pair them with frozen banana, avocado or tender coconut meat.
Make fruit leather
This is a great way to make a healthy, anytime, anywhere, snack. Simply grind blueberries and dry the puree in a food dehydrator tray. The drying process concentrates the natural sugars, so you don’t need any sweetener. When dry to touch, cut the fruit leather into strips and roll them up.
You can add other berries for a mix of flavors. Whole blueberries can also be dehydrated and added to trail mixes, granola bars, and any baked goods. They make excellent low-calorie snacks on their own or covered in dark chocolate.