July is National Blueberry Month!

Blueberries are a popular summer treat and every year, during the month of July, these power packed, antioxidant rich berries get the recognition they deserve. Why July? It is the prime month to harvest blueberries. But there is another “juicy” story:

Did you know that wild blueberries have been around forever? However they are not easy to grow and they vary in sizes. Cultivation of the blueberries we now buy at the supermarkets did not begin until around 1910, when a woman named Elizabeth White (daughter of a cranberry farmer) figured out a way to create a strain of a series that could be grown easily, plentiful and in fairly consistent size. It is due to Ms. Whites curiosity and effort, that we now have a cultivated varietal that is easier to obtain than its wildgrowing cousin.

Whether cultivated or wild, blueberries are incredibly healthy and worth incorporating into your diet. Aside from potentially decreasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, blueberries also promote skin health and increase energy.

Some of the areas of study, where blueberries have shown promising results are:

1. Maintaining Bone Health

Blueberries contain many micro-nutrients, such as iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K – all of which play an important role in building and maintaining healthy bones. Since Vitamin K improves the absorption of calcium, low levels have been linked to a higher risk of bone fractures.

2. Preventing Cancer

Blueberries are rich in powerful antioxidants that protect our cells against oxidative stress which causes DNA damage. DNA damage is the reason why we age. It also plays an important role in the development of cancers. Research suggests that antioxidants may inhibit tumor growth, decrease systemic inflammation and help prevent or slow down some cancers. Blueberries contain vitamin A and about 24% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C.

3. Keeping your Heart Healthy

Blueberries contain fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, all supporting heart health. Vitamin B6 and folate, for example, prevent the buildup of a compound called homocysteine in the body which, in excess, can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease.

A study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia in the U.K, demonstrated that the regular consumption of anthocyanin (it is the chemical compound that gives blueberries their color) can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women. For this study, the participants achieved the best results when eating 3 cups of the berries per week.

If that does not convince you why blueberries deserve a special month to be recognized! So much power in such a little fruit. Did you know that on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) Blueberries score of whopping 132, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables.

Oh, and Did I mention, they are my favorite fruit choice? I love them on my oatmeal, in smoothies, as pie or even in a salad with feta, cucumber and balsamic dressing. There is no limit to your imagination on how to incorporate blueberries into your dishes…if you haven’t already, give them a try!