This amazing post was written by Jenn Ryan, a freelance writer and editor who’s passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. You can read more of her work at thegreenwritingdesk.com.
I adore blueberries.
These cute little berries are so healthy for you, taste so good, and are so fun to pick in the sweltering summertime. Bushes typically begin to produce fruit late in May and will continue to produce throughout most of the summer, depending on how mature your bushes are and the state they’re in (yes I do mean both physical state and geographical state).
Phytonutrients is another word for phytochemicals, but don’t let the word chemical throw you off. Phytonutrients are simply natural compounds that plants need to remain healthy. As you can imagine, they are also very healthy for humans. They’re not technically nutrients, so don’t get these confused with things you need to survive such as vitamins and minerals.
How do blueberries and their phytonutrients help us out?
Why Are Blueberries So Awesome?
There’s nothing like that rich blue of a blueberry. Did you know that the color of plants and their fruit depends on their phytonutrients? The darker and more rich the color, the more phytonutrients are present. This is a guideline rather than a rule, because some really awesome foods such as garlic don’t have a wild color but they still remain dense in phytonutrients.
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Blueberries are low in calories yet contain fiber, vitamin C, and different types of antioxidants. So many antioxidants are present in blueberries, in fact, that they may just have the best possible antioxidant content of any food you could eat! Antioxidants are important for neutralizing free radicals in the body (which can influence cancer as well as other problems in the body including many chronic diseases).
From improving brain function to preventing heart disease, the phytonutrients in blueberries are extremely beneficial.
Phytonutrients in Blueberries
Blueberries contain numerous kinds of phytonutrients, including anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, and flavonols. Pretty much of all these work as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents in your body, which is how they can help prevent disease and keep you healthy, as inflammation is a major factor in many chronic diseases. Their phytonutrients can even help protect your eyes! It’s no wonder that blueberries are called a superfood.
How to Get More Nutrition from Your Blueberries
You definitely want all these phytonutrients to end up in your body, yes? Right. So let’s talk about how you can get the most nutrition from your blueberries.
Considering that blueberries don’t last that long (you’re lucky if you can get a week out of them, although they may last longer if they’re fresh-picked at your home or a local farm), you may also consider freezing or cooking them.
Research shows that freezing blueberries does little to their nutrient content and can actually be healthier than buying blueberries “fresh” at the store, so you can enjoy blueberries year round in smoothies or even in pies and pancakes!
Freezing blueberries doesn’t harm their lovely antioxidants, so enjoy! When freezing, at 0 degrees Fahrenheit and no longer than six months is ideal.
You can begin flash freezing fresh blueberries by ensuring they’re washed first. After washing, you can place on a baking sheet and put in the freezer, then transfer them to a bag. If you put them in the bag then in the freezer immediately after washing, they’ll clump together. Not fun for smoothie-making time, I promise.
Flash freezing fresh blueberries can help you to keep more of the phytonutrients than if the blueberries are allowed to age naturally. You may also choose to dust your blueberries with vitamin C or pectin powder before freezing, which will help extend their freezer life and slow oxidation!
You can choose to thaw them for a bit before using in a smoothie, and you will need to thaw them before use in baking.
Did you know that cooking blueberries can actually help increase the phytonutrients that you receive from them? It does this by breaking down different chemicals that can hinder your absorption of phytonutrients, so heating blueberries can help you to absorb more of them! Since blueberries have so many different kinds of phytonutrients, not all of them will increase with cooking, but some will—just another reason to enjoy blueberries in any way you can to reap the benefits!
Whether you like your blueberries fresh, frozen, or cooked, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy these gorgeous berries this summer. Remember that flash freezing and cooking can help enhance the nutrients you absorb, and don’t hesitate to cook those little berries—increase the phytonutrients you get from blueberries!
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