We give you the rundown on a tasty seasonal fruit that packs a nutritional punch.
With no peeling, hulling or pitting, a blueberry is a ready-to-go, tasty fruit. They may be small but blueberries are little powerhouses full of goodness. Blueberries are one of the few foods we eat that are naturally coloured blue. The message of eating fruit and vegetables the rainbow way is probably one you have heard, and including blueberries in your diet certainly makes it easy to tick off the 'blue' in the rainbow.
The blueberry is a native fruit of North America. Native American tribes have recognised the plant's medicinal properties for many years: the leaves were used to make a tea, thought to be good for the blood; a cough treatment was made from the juice; and the juice was also used as a dye for baskets and cloth.
In New Zealand, fresh blueberries are available from November to April. Thankfully for blueberry-lovers, though, they are also available frozen all year round.
How to choose
When buying, look for blueberries that appear plump and firm with a silvery-white sheen. The silvery sheen helps to protect the berries from harsh sunlight and is a good indication of freshness.
Stored in the fridge, blueberries will keep well for up to two weeks, if they can last that long before being devoured. They can easily be frozen: place unwashed berries in a plastic bag and remove the air before sealing. Wash them just before you are ready to eat.
Nutritionally blueberries pack a powerful punch and are thought to have many health benefits. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which help to prevent and repair cell damage that occurs from everyday wear and tear.
In particular, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants, believed to be important in helping to counteract age-related decline in brain function. They are thought to help with memory and motor skills. The blueberry has hence been dubbed the 'brain berry'.
As well as helping with brain function, the humble blueberry is linked to other health benefits such as being protective against cancer and helping to lower cholesterol.
How to use them
Blueberries are low in energy so they make a great snack, with one cup having only 360kJ. At the same time they also provide other important nutrients: they are a reasonable source of fibre – one cup has nearly 3g – and they have a range of vitamins, in particular vitamins C and A.
You can add blueberries to your diet in lots of ways:
- Use as a fruit with your breakfast cereal or as part of a colourful fruit salad
- Add fresh or frozen blueberries to smoothies
- Add them to muffins, pancakes or cakes
- They are fantastic as a jam
- They can be combined with other fruits to add interest to standard desserts such as crumbles, sponges or pies
- Serve as part of a cheeseboard as an interesting alternative to grapes