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Blueberries: Healthful fruit snack

July 07, 2010|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

It's time to pick fresh blueberries. Blueberries pack a healthful punch that you really shouldn't miss and they taste great.

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to prepare and serve. There is no peeling, pitting or cutting. They have few natural pests, other than birds, so pesticides are generally unnecessary.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Center found that blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant power when compared with 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are helpful in neutralizing by-products of metabolism called free radicals. Free radicals can play a role in the development of cancer and in other age-related diseases.

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 1 cup of fresh blueberries has only 83 calories. That same cup of blueberries provides 21 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, provide vitamin A, manganese, potassium and iron.

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Select plump, full blueberries with a light gray-blue color. A berry with any hint of red isn't fully ripened. White and green-colored blueberries will not ripen after they are picked; while blueberries that have already turned purple, red or blue-ish usually do ripen after they are picked (if they are kept at room temperature to ripen).

Fresh blueberries can be fragile so they need to be handled with care. Store them in the refrigerator and wash them gently just before eating or preparing. Chilling the blueberries after picking will increase shelf life. If you need to store them longer than a few days, they can be canned or frozen.

Freeze berries in freezer containers without washing. Washing results in a tougher skinned product. Pack berries into containers, leaving headspace. Berries can also be frozen first on a tray and then packed into containers as soon as they are frozen. Seal and freeze. Because unwashed blueberries freeze individually, they can be easily poured from containers in desired amounts. Wash berries in cool water before using.

One pint of fresh blueberries weighs about 3/4 pound. One pound of fresh blueberries is about 2 2/3 cups of berries.

It takes about 4 cups of blueberries to make a blueberry pie.

A normal batch of blueberry preserves, jam or jelly requires 5 pints of berries.

Fruit & Veggies - More Matters ( ww.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.orgw) suggest the following ways to enjoy blueberries:

A sweet, green salad. Make a sweet salad by topping spinach leaves or lettuce with blueberries, nuts, strawberries, mandarin oranges and a light Vidalia onion dressing.

o Pancakes and waffles. Make a whole-wheat pancake or waffle batter and add fresh blueberries. Prepare and enjoy.

o Blue juice. The kids will love this one. Toss blackberries, blueberries and a splash of orange juice into a blender and add some blue to your kids' day.

o Blueberries and bran. Add fresh blueberries to a bran muffin mix. Bake and enjoy.

o Top your oatmeal. Top your favorite cereal or oatmeal with a handful of fresh blueberries.

o Fruit kabobs. Make fruit kabobs by stacking blueberries, kiwi and strawberries on toothpicks. Enjoy as is or dip them in low-fat vanilla yogurt.

o Blue smoothie. Combine milk, low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt and blueberries in a blender for a tasty blue smoothie.

o Parfait. Layer blueberries, low-fat vanilla yogurt, low-fat granola and pineapple to make a delicious after-dinner snack.

o Just pop a few. Then a few more. They're delicious as is.

- Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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