blueberries

Blueberry season has arrived! Did you know North Carolina is the eighth largest producer of blueberries? Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits because not only are they a superfruit, rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they are delicious fresh or frozen. Blueberries are one of the most nutritious fruits in the world and have been shown to do everything from boosting brain health to preventing heart disease. Check out all the amazing health benefits of blueberries.

» Antioxidants: Blueberries are higher in antioxidants than most fruits. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and protect against chronic disease. The anthocyanin pigments in blueberries give them their deep blue color which provide the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

» Considered a superfruit: Blueberries are rich in vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C and fiber. They are also about 85 percent water, and one cup contains only 85 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates.

» Boost brain health and mood: Did you know certain foods can boost your mood? Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids and folate, which helps your body to produce mood-boosting serotonin. There have also been several studies concluding that blueberries could improve memory and cognition. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that blueberry supplementation improved memory in older adults.

» Heart health: Studies show that eating blueberries could help reduce risk factors for heart disease. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming 1 cup of blueberries daily resulted in improved HDL cholesterol levels (“good cholesterol”). A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that daily blueberry consumption helped lower blood pressure.

» Cancer prevention: According to a study published in Cancer Research Journal, blueberries have anti-cancer properties.

» Support digestion: Blueberries are high in fiber which helps prevent constipation and maintain regularity for a healthful digestive tract.

I encourage you to purchase your blueberries locally when in season. When farms pick fruit for stores and distribution they must pick them before they are ripe because they want them to hold up for refrigeration and for traveling. However, when you purchase them from local farms, they are at the peak of freshness.

Sugar-free blueberry muffins

I love this blueberry muffin recipe because its sweetened with only bananas and it is refined flour free.

3/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 medium ripe bananas (about 3/4 cup mashed banana)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, (or you can use avocado or olive oil)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

½-1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, flaxseed meal, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the mashed banana, egg, oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla and almond milk until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in blueberries. Pour batter into greased or paper-lined muffin tin about ¾ full. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian in Morganton who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at mandynix85@gmail.com.

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