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Blueberry fans, you probably already know how this round little fruit is a game-changer when it comes to healthy eating. Not only is it versatile – you can work it into porridges, smoothies and muffins, plus plenty of other recipes – but it’s also great for you.
In fact, blueberries are one of the most beneficial berries you can eat. Considered a superfood by many, these dark-hued berries are low in calories and high in nutrients, which makes them impressively nutrient-dense. Just 1 cup of tart, sweet blueberries contains 3.5 grams of fiber, 36 percent of your daily vitamin K, 24 percent of your daily vitamin C and 25 percent of your daily manganese.
And they’re particularly great at delivering antioxidants. Blueberries are considered one of the most antioxidant-rich foods available. Research even suggests that eating blueberries can directly increase the antioxidant levels in the body. But here’s something surprising about this fruit: Depending on whether you’re opting for fresh or frozen blueberries, you just might be able to amp up those antioxidants.
That’s right, the nutritional makeup of blueberries can change depending on the form you’re buying at your local grocery store. Here’s how to choose the most healthful berries.
Opt for frozen blueberries instead of fresh
In general, the antioxidants found in blueberries are hugely beneficial. After all, blueberries are a superfood because they’re so antioxidant-rich. But according to research conducted by a South Dakota State University grad, frozen blueberries can be better for you than fresh.
Like other frozen fruits and vegetables, blueberries that are headed for your grocery store’s frozen foods aisle are picked and then immediately frozen. They’re frozen so soon after being picked that their quality – and their nutrients – are actually equal to fresh blueberries.
And the research mentioned above examined the nutritional breakdown of frozen blueberries compared to fresh ones at one, three and five months after being frozen or picked. It turned out that the antioxidant content of the frozen variety didn’t decrease. Instead, it held steady and equal to fresh berries.
There was also a bit of a surprise: While the frozen blueberries did experience some leaching, or loss of compounds, they didn’t lose nutrients. Rather, the frozen berries gained antioxidants, becoming more concentrated than their fresh counterparts.
Why freezing blueberries makes their antioxidants extra potent
If you’re wondering why freezing makes such a noticeable difference in blueberries’ antioxidant levels, the answer is in the skin.
Blueberries contain a particular kind of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a subclass of flavonoids found in the skin of certain fruits – and they’re also responsible for those bluish, purplish hues you see in blueberries. When these key compounds are frozen, they become altered in a way that ups the antioxidant availability.
When blueberries are frozen, ice crystals form. Those crystals were found to disrupt the natural structure of the berries’ tissue in a way that made the anthocyanins present in the skin more readily available. That means frozen blueberries essentially make it easier for you to take in the antioxidants they offer, which can help offer an extra-potent line of defense against free radicals.
So, if you’re looking to get the most nutritional bang for your buck when buying blueberries, you might want to go for frozen. But ultimately, whether you’re opting for frozen blueberries or fresh, you’re getting a powerful dose of antioxidants. Choosing frozen can offer extra benefits, but you’ll still be doing yourself a lot of good by enjoying these berries fresh, too.
Need ideas to incorporate fresh or frozen blueberries into your meals? Try these: