FROM UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI EXTENSION
SOUTHWEST REGIONAL NEWS SERVICE
Contact: Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist
Headquartered in Greene County
Tel: (417) 881-8909
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The news on blueberries continues to get better.
“Nature has provided amazing health benefits in these tiny fruits, and packed them with exceptional taste, plump juicy sweetness, and a powerful dose of nutrition,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Blueberries contain few calories, virtually no fat or sodium, and are full of dietary fiber and vitamin C. But berries are most known for their health-promoting phytonutrients.
“While all berries benefit our health, noteworthy research has focused on blueberries because they are very rich in the phytonutrient class called polyphenols, which contain compounds such as anthocyanins. These compounds give blueberries their rich color, but also are responsible for their amazing health benefits,” said Duitsman.
Recent headlines like these may be hard to believe: “Blueberries dramatically lower the risk of diabetes,” “Blueberries halt hardening of the arteries,” “Blueberries reduce heart attacks,” “Blueberries improve memory in older adults,” and “Blueberries fight obesity”.
Very credible current research shows that eating blueberries can benefit health by helping prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Studies show an increase in the elasticity of blood vessels, improved control of cholesterol levels, protection against cognitive decline and age related diseases.
A significant number of studies continue to show remarkable neurocognitive benefits from eating blueberries. In human studies, memory is boosted, and cognitive function increased. Other animal studies show the mechanism by which blueberries protect the brain may be specifically beneficial in preventing diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Preliminary research also shows that the polyphenols in blueberries combat the development of fat cells, and help breakdown fat at the molecular level.
“Beyond the health benefits, blueberries also possess extremely high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help lessen the inflammatory process associated with many chronic conditions including auto-immune disease, obesity, heart disease and cancer,” said Duitsman.
Eating three or more servings of a half a cup of berries each week has been shown to be heart protective. To decrease the risk of diabetes, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health have reported that eating at least two servings each week of whole blueberries reduced risk for type 2 diabetes by as much as 23 percent compared to eating less than one serving a month.
“It’s important to note that only the whole fruit, not fruit juice, was beneficial. Study participants who consumed one or more servings of fruit juice each day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 21 percent,” said Duitsman.
Researchers report that swapping three servings of juice per week for whole fruits would result in a 7 percent reduction in diabetes risk.
It’s easy to find these blueberries while in season, at the farmer’s market, u-pick farms, at farm stands and supermarkets.
Here are some tips to help you store blueberries for future use:
Handle the fruit gently to avoid bruising. Bruising shortens the life of fruit.
Sort carefully and remove berries that are too soft or decayed.
Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath.
Do not wash berries before refrigerating.
Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such as in the hydrator (vegetable keeper), to help extend the usable life of the fruit. Recommended storage time in the refrigerator is five to six days.
Before eating berries, wash gently in cold water, lift out of water and drain.
Cooking blueberries can dramatically decrease their health protective compounds, but freezing or drying does not harm them.
For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.