Published on July 19, 2017

Blueberries are packed with nutrition


Contact: Jeri Hughes
Marketing & Community Relations
Essentia Health
(218) 828-7583

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

July is National Blueberry Month, and this dark blue gem is worth celebrating.

Blueberries are packed with nutrition. Their deep, rich color signals that they are high in antioxidants, which have the potential to reduce the risk of many illnesses and diseases caused by oxidative stress in our bodies.

Blueberries and other berries offer powerful protection against cancer, according to Colleen Doyle, the managing director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. Phytonutrients in blueberries counteract, reduce and repair damage to our cells from daily life.

Research has shown that the phytonutrients in blueberries may help improve memory and cognitive function. Blueberries have also been shown to improve heart health, blood sugar regulation and eye health.

Blueberries also are a good source of vitamin C, manganese and fiber. Manganese is a trace mineral found in small amounts in our bodies that helps form connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors and sex hormones. Manganese plays a role in metabolizing fats and carbohydrates, absorbing calcium and regulating blood sugar. The mineral is necessary for normal brain and nerve function.

The blueberry is native to North America and has been part of the traditional food culture of Native Americans. Today, blueberries grow wild and are cultivated. The most common cultivated species is the northern high-bush blueberry and its berries are usually grown to be sold fresh in markets. The wild blueberry is usually a low-bush plant. "Wild" has been adopted as a marketing term for harvests of managed native stands of low-bush blueberries.

More than 90 percent of wild blueberries are frozen because they have fragile, smaller berries and need to be handled quickly and carefully. Freezing blueberries preserves their nutritional benefits. Blueberries have a natural protective coating that keeps them from spoiling so don't rinse berries until you are ready to eat or freeze them.

Wild blueberries and cultivated blueberries are both superstars.  Wild blueberries have more zinc and fiber. Cup for cup, there would be more wild berries because they are much smaller and so that cup would yield more fiber and antioxidants. Cultivated blueberries are higher in vitamin C and vitamin E and are lower in calories.

We are fortunate in Minnesota and Wisconsin to have local farmers who grow blueberries. You can even find farms where you can pick your own in late July and early August. Go to to find a farm.

July even brings blueberry festivals in the Northland. Iron River, Wisconsin, celebrates blueberries on July 22-23 while Ely, Minnesota, celebrates July 28-30.

Blueberries are often featured in desserts and sweets such as blueberry muffins and blueberry pie. The added sugar may negate their health benefits.

This summer, stretch your taste buds and try blueberries in other ways. A simple, easy desserts is a Red White and Blue parfait. Try a chicken salad that adds these superstars to a main dish. Whip up some blueberry lime salsa for a great snack with chips or pair it with grilled chicken or grilled salmon.

Red, White and Blue Parfait

1/3 cup fresh blueberries
3 large fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon granola

Wash blueberries and strawberries; remove all stems. Cut strawberries into smaller pieces. Layer half the strawberries in a small glass, top with 3 tablespoons blueberries then 11/2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt. Repeat layers. Top with granola.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Calories: 90
Total fat: 1 gram
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 5 milligrams
Sodium: 10 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 18 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 2 grams

Blueberry Chicken Salad

2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh chicken breast (about 1 pound), cooked and cubed
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup fresh red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
5-ounce container of lemon Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Leaf lettuce

Wash blueberries and set aside 1/4cup to be used for garnish. In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, red pepper, onions and remaining blueberries. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, mayonnaise, olive oil and thyme. Add dressing mixture to chicken mixture. Gently toss to coat.  Add in parsley. May be served on a lettuce leaf and topped with blueberries.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Serving size: 11/4 cup
Calories: 275
Total fat: 8 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 1 milligram
Sodium: 65 milligrams
Potassium: 270 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 20 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 39 grams

Blueberry Lime Salsa

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
5 medium strawberries, stems removed
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 avocado, chopped

Combine blueberries, strawberries, onion, lime zest, juice and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Pulse to the consistency that you like.  Scrape salsa into a bowl and fold in chopped avocado.  Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips or grilled chicken or fish. 

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Calories: 20
Total fat: 1 gram
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 15 milligrams
Potassium: 60 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 0 grams

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