Blueberries: Tasty and healthy!

Enjoy the bounty of Michigan grown blueberries. The tiny fruit is a nutritional powerhouse!

BlueberriesWith the Michigan blueberry harvest in full swing, now is the perfect time to enjoy this tiny but delicious, nutritional powerhouse. Blueberries are also easy to preserve and freeze for the cold, winter months.

A cup of blueberries is only 80 calories and is loaded with fiber, approximately 16 percent of the recommended daily amount. It is rich in vitamin C which promotes a healthy immune system and is also a fat-free food. Blueberries are a top performer when it comes to antioxidant activity per serving according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals — unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. So bring on the blue – the anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue color are the major contributors to antioxidant activity.

During the summer months, take advantage of the plentiful blueberry harvest. Local produce will be cheaper than during off-season months. Blueberries are simple to freeze for later consumption. A tray or dry pack is an easy way to freeze and then use for later. Do not wash blueberries before freezing — 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, label, date and freeze. Wash before eating. Blueberries frozen in this way are wonderful later in smoothies, baked goods or just in a bowl.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension has produced Market Fresh publications that share how to utilize, prepare and preserve Michigan-grown produce. Fact sheets are available for a variety of vegetables and fruits, including blueberries.

Eating a rainbow, including a diet rich in blue foods like blueberries, will pack a nutritional punch including a hefty dose of fiber and vitamin C. Storing blueberries by freezing or canning will allow you to enjoy the bounty that Michigan summers provide.

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