July is National Blueberry Month. Often labeled a superfood, this little berry is bursting with vitamins and minerals ─ many of which are classified as antioxidants.
Much of the power of blueberries lies in their colors. The deep-blue hue comes from anthocyanin, an antioxidant that could help protect the body from heart disease and cancer, as well as reduce inflammation and increase immune function. Research also suggests the compounds found in blueberries may delay the effects of vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“A half-cup serving of blueberries contains 25 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin C and 3 grams of dietary fiber — and only 30 calories,” says Allie Wergin, a Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian nutritionist. “In addition, blueberries are a juicy fruit, which means they contain mostly water. Juicy fruits are great for weight loss or weight maintenance, because they fill you up quickly with their high water content and minimal calories.”
Whether you’re eating blueberries for the health benefits or you like the taste, or both, blueberries can easily be eaten plain. They also can be added to cereal or yogurt, or incorporated into baked goods for added sweetness and nutrition. To prolong the shelf life, Wergin advises keeping fresh blueberries refrigerated.
“During these summer months, be sure to take advantage of blueberries when they are plentiful and on sale by purchasing in large quantities and freezing them,” says Wergin. “Just wash and dry the berries, lay them on a pan, and freeze until they’re solid. Package frozen blueberries in freezer-safe storage bags, so they are ready for the winter months. You can easily substitute frozen berries for fresh.”
BLUEBERRY BAKED OATMEAL RECIPE
Start to finish: 35-40 minutes
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick, one-minute oats)
1 cup of nonfat milk
1 pint or 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, applesauce, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth.
Stir in salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Once combined, stir in milk and oats. Fold in blueberries (fresh or frozen), and spread in pan.
Bake for 26-32 minutes until oatmeal bake is browned and center appears cooked and not mushy.
Cool before serving. The oatmeal can be eaten alone or served with plain or vanilla yogurt.
Store in the refrigerator for two to three days. Freeze any leftovers individually for quick and easy snacks or breakfasts.
Nutrition information per serving: 140 calories; 2 g fat (1 g saturated; 1 g monosaturated; 1 gram polyunsaturated; 0 g trans fats); 31 mg cholesterol; 130 mg sodium; 82 mg potassium; 26 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 4 g protein.