Blueberries are a wonderful fruit, full of health benefits, a great snack, and a perfect substitute for sweets.
Description: Blueberries are small, round berries that grow on small to medium height bushes in temperate climates.
Most commercial blueberries are described as ‘Northern Highbush’ species: Vaccinium corymbosum
Origin: Blueberries are native to North America. Commercial blueberries have been gradually selected from wild blueberries since the early 20th century.
Varieties: There are many varieties of blueberry, so many that tracking them as a consumer is difficult and largely unproductive: it’s better to get to know retailer offers that distinguish on price and quality, making the varietal choice for you. However, at peak seasons the premium varieties often find themselves in the lesser value packs due to abundance, so they are worth picking up. Premium varieties tend to be newer registered names such as Kirra, Mayra, Arana, Driscoll Stella Blue, but there are others such as Corona, Eureka, Blue One, Blue Aroma, etc, that are used when in peak condition.
Production: From its origins in North America, blueberry production has spread throughout the globe to provide a 52 week supply of the fruit. Blueberries require a certain degree of cold units to be productive, so the main growing areas are in temperate zones. Large scale production for domestic and export markets takes place in: USA, Canada, Chile, Argentina, most European countries, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and Korea.
Why eat blueberries?
While they are one of the most nutritionally dense foods, blueberries are sweet and full of flavour, so are easy to like and easy to eat. They require no preparation, so are a great snack, and can be added to a huge range of recipes. In many ways, blueberries are one of natures perfect snack foods, and ideal for lunch boxes.
Quality & Buying – Fresh Blueberries:
All fresh blueberries are sold in punnets, so are difficult to assess while shopping. They should be plump and quite firm, with no signs of mould.
Look through the side of the punnet to avoid any of the following:
- Green or pale colouration of berries;
- Soft or wrinkled berries;
- White mould growth on the berry or in the stalk button.
One of the main quality problems with blueberries is poor texture. We are dependent on growers to harvest the fruit at the correct time to ensure good eating quality, but also on the fruit packers and retailers to ensure good texture and condition. If softness seems to be an issue, it is quite easy to quickly run the berries through your fingers when emptying a punnet, so as to reject those that are obviously soft and wrinkled.
Nutrition (1 cup serving = 148g):
- High fibre: 14% dv (important to control heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, digestive health)
- High vitamin C: 24% dv (important for cell health: skin, blood vessel, bone, cartilage; wound healing)
- High vitamin K: 36% dv (important for blood clotting; wound healing)
- High manganese: 25% dv (important for healthy bones; insulin production; antioxidants)
- Low calories: 4.2% dv (57 kcal/100g)
- Low Glycaemic Load: 6 (less than 10 = low effect on blood sugars)
- Sugars: 10% of blueberries are sugar carbohydrates, consisting of 50% glucose and 50% fructose
(Daily Value (dv) % of a 2000 kcal per day diet from 1 cup of blueberries)(Source: USDA SR-21)
Blueberries are high in flavonoids such as anthocyanins which convey antioxidant properties. Studies have shown indication that increased antioxidants in the blood can lower blood pressure, help oxidise LDL cholesterol, improve memory in older adults, and help neutralise free radicals to reduce DNA damage.
Authority Nutrition (USA): 10 Proven Health Benefits of Blueberries