One tiny berry packs a nutritious and versatile punch as we celebrate the blueberry during National Blueberry Month. Starting in June and throughout the summer, look for subtly sweet blueberries growing locally in Illinois.
Nutritionally, blueberries are like many fruits: low in calories, without sodium or fat, and a source of vitamins. A 1/2-cup serving of blueberries contains around 40 calories, 10g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, and vitamin K.
While you can find fresh blueberries almost year-round in stores, the best quality and lowest prices will be in summer months. Or grow your own with WEB HIGHLIGHT 1 below.
- Buy: Blueberries should be a deep blue-purple color, firm, and plump without mashed, shriveled, or wrinkled flesh. If choosing processed blueberries, such as juiced or frozen, look for those without added sugar.
- Price: The lowest prices on blueberries will be when they are in-season. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on average, fresh or frozen blueberries cost around $1.30 per cup. These are certainly one of the more expensive fruits, so look for good quality berries before you buy.
- Store: Keep unwashed berries in your refrigerator for up to a week, discarding molded or soft berries. Wash right before you eat them to prevent faster spoilage.
Or freeze them yourself for longer storage with instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- Prepare: Wash before eating. If using in a recipe, blueberries are often left whole since they are already small and bite-sized.
- Eat: Commonly eaten as a fruit side to meals or as a snack, blueberries work well in sweet dishes such as bakery items and fruit salads. But you may find savory recipes including blueberries.
Reference: US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Since blueberries are great on their own or in dishes, it is up to you to decide how you want to eat them! Try some of these fun recipes below.
Berry-Nana-Squash Smoothie (makes 3 cups, serving size 1 cup) - Kid-approved recipe!
This smoothie has a surprise vegetable, but you will not notice! It is a great way to use summer's bountiful fruits and vegetables. With the addition of yogurt, we also celebrate June as National Dairy Month.
1 cup frozen mixed berries (including blueberries)
1/2 cup diced banana
1 cup diced zucchini or yellow squash
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup ice cubes
1. In a blender, add all ingredients.
2. Purée until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Serve right away.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 130 calories, 1g fat, 55mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 4g protein
Peach and Blueberry Kabobs (Serves 4)
For the Illini fans, have fun with summer produce by threading fruit in the team's colors. Or try different fruits for other color combinations for your favorite team or school colors.
2 fresh peaches
1 cup fresh large blueberries
1. Wash and halve peaches. Cut into 1-inch pieces.
2. Wash blueberries.
3. Thread peaches and blueberries in alternating patterns onto each of 4 skewers.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 50 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein
WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Learn more about blueberries through UI Extension website Small Fruit Crops for the Backyard.
FOOD SCIENCE HIGHLIGHT: Anthocyanin: Anthocyanin is a pigment found in blueberries that gives its distinct purple/blue color. Anthocyanin is also an antioxidant compound that can neutralize some free radicals in body cells that cause damage.
Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.
Blog content reposted from Huth's UI Extension "Healthy Eats and Repeat" blog from June 2014.