Blueberry cheesecake is commonly how many Filipinos have tried blueberries. As the fruit isn’t native to the Philippines, we typically have to rely on the syrup-y, sugar-drenched blueberries atop a creamy cake for a taste. But there are other ways to enjoy blueberries locally: Frozen blueberries, dried blueberries, and even chocolate-covered blueberries are now available in the market, in large part because these little deep blue-purplish spheres have reached superfood status.
“Superfood,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a food (such as salmon, broccoli, or blueberries) that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person’s health.”
The term is generally used as a marketing strategy as there are no set guidelines for determining what’s a superfood or what isn’t. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that a “food is promoted to superfood status when it offers high levels of desirable nutrients, is linked to the prevention of a disease, or is believed to offer several simultaneous health benefits beyond its nutritional value” but that there really is no “official” list of superfoods.
Superfoods aren’t a magic bullet, solving all your health woes, but they do pack a lot of nutrients and can be very good for your health. Blueberries, in particular, offer the following health benefits:
They’re low in calories but high in nutrients. Berries in general are good for your health but blueberries are a powerhouse: One cup contains 24% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of immune-system-enhancing, anti-aging Vitamin C; 36% of Vitamin K; and 25% of manganese—all for just 84 calories! The soluble fiber also helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.
They may be good for the heart. Blueberries contain anthocyanidins, which are antioxidants that are good for heart health and that may help keep other diseases at bay.
They may have anti-diabetic effects. A small study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that blueberry smoothies improved insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. Other research suggests that blueberries may also play a role in blood sugar control.
They may be good for your brain. A 2012 study of over 16,000 individuals found that “greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline.” Results indicated that “berry intake appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.”
Dried vs Frozen
Because blueberries aren’t grown here, we normally have to settle for the dried or frozen kind, but is one better than the other?
A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine & Biotechnology concluded that freezing or drying blueberries had no significant effect on the antioxidant content of the fruit, so whatever form you choose, you’ll still be getting all the free-radical-fighting goodness.
The main difference? While freezing pretty much retains the nutrients of the fresh fruit, drying greatly increases the sugar content. As experts explain in The New York Times, drying removes the water, which then concentrates the sugar and increases calorie content. While a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries comes in at 85 calories and 14 grams of sugar, half a cup of the dried version has more than triple the number of calories and nearly double the amount of sugar!
Thus, eating frozen blueberries may edge out on eating the dried kind. While dried blueberries can give you a much-needed energy spike because of the sugar content, this does come at a price. If you do choose dried blueberries over frozen ones, keep in mind that you have to limit your servings and can’t directly substitute fresh or frozen for dried; if you do, the added sugar may contribute to weight gain.
A Berry Good Diet
There’s more to blueberries than dessert! Below are some healthier ways you can incorporate the fruit into your diet, aside from eating them as is:
Breakfast. Mix blueberries with Greek yogurt and chia seeds, add them t to overnight oats, blend them into a smoothie, or make blueberry zucchini muffins for that one-two punch of fruits and veggies to start your day!
Lunch. Get some healthy grains in your diet with vegetable couscous with blueberries.
Snack. Need an afternoon pick-me-up? These blueberry sunflower energy bites might just do the trick.
Dinner. Give your traditional guacamole a twist by adding blueberries. Try this recipe for grilled chicken with blueberry guac.