February 21, 2020 by John Fernandez
Blueberries Pack a Nutritional, Tasty Punch (With Recipes)
Summer brings a bounty of blueberries to grocery stores. Although available all year, both fresh and frozen, blueberries are most affordable during the height of the summer harvest season. It’s a great time to indulge in these delightful little orbs, which are low in sugar, high in fiber and pack a powerful nutritional punch.
“Fresh blueberries bring a brightness to your meals, whether you toss them into your oatmeal or yogurt, sprinkle them on your salads or bake them into recipes,” said Bob Gilardi, executive chef at Doctors Hospital. “Of course, you can also enjoy them plain, by the handful.”
Most nutritionists list blueberries among the so-called superfoods. Although all berries are healthful, blueberries are the most nutrient-dense. A one-cup serving has only about 85 calories and is bursting with 25 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, instrumental in repairing and regenerating tissues. Plus, it has 36 percent of the recommended vitamin K, which improves bone density, blood clotting and heart health.
Ounce for ounce, blueberries have less carbs, calories and sugar than many other fruits such as grapes, cherries and bananas. But that’s only part of what has fueled their recent surge in popularity.
Blueberries are also among the top antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, loaded with phytochemicals that protect the body’s cells from damage by free radicals, compounds linked to cancer and aging. Much of the credit goes to anthocyanins, the main antioxidant that gives them their deep hue. Various studies have found that the antioxidants in blueberries may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, cognitive decline and eye diseases like macular degeneration. “If you eat real food as close to their natural state as possible, you help your body ward off disease,” Chef Gilardi said. “Nature has created such beautiful colors and flavors to sustain us. Blueberries are a part of that.”
Surprisingly versatile, blueberries can serve as an interesting pizza topping, the base for a vinaigrette or the star of a breakfast or brunch recipe. The possibilities are endless. Here are some recipes from Chef Gilardi, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
NOTE: Check with your doctor or pharmacist before eating more blueberries if you’re on a blood thinner such as Coumadin, as the vitamin K in blueberries can interfere with the blood-thinning effect of these medications.
Healthy Blueberry Crisp
- 3 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ½ cup almonds, slivered
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Place blueberries in an oven-safe baking dish.
- To create the crisp topping, combine the oats, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the melted butter and maple syrup, then mix until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread on top of blueberries.
- Bake 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and blueberries start to bubble. Remove from oven.
- Mix together Greek yogurt and maple syrup and drizzle over the blueberry crisp.
- Serve warm as a sweet treat or healthy dessert. Makes six servings.
Bright Berry, Arugula and Toasted Pecan Salad
2 cups pecans
- 16 ounces arugula, rinsed and drained
- 1 dozen strawberries, rinsed and sliced
- 1 cup blueberries
- 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- To toast pecans, preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spritz a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread pecans out in a single layer. Toast them just until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully as they are easily scorched. When done, set aide.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl mix arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. If you wish, you may substitute other greens.
- Plate the dressed greens and evenly add the berries. Sprinkle with goat cheese and garnish with pecans.
Blueberry and Goat Cheese Flatbread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 pound whole-wheat pizza dough
- 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
- 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425˚F. Place rack in lowest position.
- In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, garlic, and thyme; set aside.
- On lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into 6- x 10-inch oval, about 1/4-inch thick. Brush with olive oil mixture. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. (Pizza dough is available at most grocery stores, or you may substitute ready-made whole grain flatbread)
- While crust is baking or flatbred is toasting, lightly mash blueberries using back of a wooden spoon in small bowl.
- When crust or flatbread is ready, spread blueberries over crust. Top with prosciutto and goat cheese. Drizzle with honey, if desired.
- Bake for an additional 10 minutes to crisp prosciutto and melt cheese. Makes four servings.
Blueberry French Toast cups
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 12 ounces whole grain bread, cut into small pieces (about 6 cups)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Whisk the eggs, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the bread and stir to combine well.
- Fold in the blueberries.
- Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon equal portions of the bread mixture into the muffin pan, filling the wells almost all the way to the top.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until muffins are puffed up and cooked through. Remove from oven and cool. If desired, drizzle with maple syrup.
Blueberry Protein Muffins
- 1 banana, mashed
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- Preheat oven to 375˚F and spray 6 muffin cups with cooking spray.
- In large bowl, stir together banana, quinoa, yogurt and almond butter until blended.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and set in center. Cool completely before eating or storing.