When I was growing up, my parents would buy blueberries in bulk. We would freeze them in little sandwich bags. Whenever we wanted a treat, my siblings and I would fill a small cup with the frozen berries and eat them one at a time until our fingers and mouths were purple and sticky. We also found that frozen blueberries were excellent bribes for our dog, though our mom was not pleased to discover we had been wasting berries in such a fashion.
We knew the blueberries were “healthy,” whatever that means when you’re ten years old, because our mom would go so far as to actually buy them for us. Fruit roll-ups and Froot Loops were not exactly welcome at our house because these were “mostly sugar.” The health benefits of blueberries were unknown to us, nor did we much care.
Fun fact: Blueberries are from the genus, “Cyanococcus,” which is literal Greek for “blue round things.”
Now that it’s been a few years and I have become a grown-up with kids and a mortgage and everything, it turns out that blueberries really are good for you! Most discussion on the health benefits of blueberries veers toward the technical side, tossing around mysterious words like “flavonols” and “anthocyanins,” and “antioxidants.” What does this mean in plain, non-organic chemistry English?
The health benefits of blueberries are numerous!
Simply put, foods with naturally-occurring blue and purple pigments (anthocyanins) are known to reduce the risk of developing certain kinds of cancers. This is the “antioxidant” property of blueberries at work. Blueberries are also high in manganese, copper, and zinc; elements important for maintaining heart health and bone structure. Manganese deficiency, in particular, is relatively common but difficult to diagnose. Feeling under the weather? Try some blueberries!
That’s just scratching the surface. It seems that there is no part of the body that does not benefit from ingestion of blueberries. Blueberries have been known to lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and to improve short term memory. The fiber content is good for your digestive system, and they can help lower blood pressure Their low glycemic index makes them an excellent food for diabetics. Doctors suggest eating raw blueberries as a treatment for urinary tract infections.
Antioxidant compounds are a little finicky and can break down easily, so most nutritionists recommend eating raw blueberries instead of cooked in desserts. Even though the antioxidants may break down a little in cooking doesn’t mean that all of the blueberries’ goodness is destroyed if you put them in a batch of muffins. Blueberries are extremely versatile and taste amazing in a wide variety of baked goods, while retaining a good portion of their health benefits.
You can store blueberries by freezing them and dehydrating them at home. They can be safely frozen for long periods of time (at least 3-6 months in clinical studies) without any detriment to the antioxidants. In general, dehydration is not as efficient as freeze-drying in this respect. However, if you have a lot of blueberries on hand and want another way to preserve them, dehydrating is still a good way to store them over a longer period of time.
If blueberry smoothies or frozen blueberries in a cup aren’t your thing, don’t despair.
Freeze-dried blueberries in your food storage pantry
Including blueberries in your diet shouldn’t have to end at the door of your refrigerator. Freeze-dried blueberries are readily available, for example, these from Emergency Essentials. The freeze-drying process retains nearly all of the fruit’s original nutrients but because the berries contain zero moisture, they have a very, very long shelf life.
I add a small handful of freeze-dried blueberries to smoothies, along with a small scoop of Greek yogurt, some almond milk, and sometimes, a tablespoon of cocoa powder!
These two recipes from Emergency Essentials are perfect for using freeze-dried blueberries. The ingredients in each recipe can easily be stored long-term, making it possible to whip up a batch of muffins and bars any time!
Blueberry Granola Bars Recipe
½ cup honey
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup instant rolled oats
2 cup freeze-dried blueberries
- Reconstitute the blueberries; Drain excess water.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 9″ square baking pan.
- In a medium saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar, oil, and cinnamon. Bring to boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes without stirring.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oats and blueberry.
- Stir in honey mixture until thoroughly blended.
- Spread into pan, gently pressing mixture flat.
- Bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
- Cut into 3″ x 1 1/2″ bars.
Blueberry Drop Muffins Recipe
1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup dehydrated fat-free milk
½ cup freeze-dried blueberries
- Combine flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Work in butter with fork or pastry blender.
- Add milk, stirring in just moisten. Carefully fold in blueberries
- Drop by tablespoon on greased baking sheet.
- Bake at 375°F for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.
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