Jessica's Nutritious Living: The Power of Blueberries and How to Make a Chicken and Arugula and Blueberry Salad

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BY JESSICA SIEGEL, MPH, RD

(Editor’s Note: This is the first monthly column written exclusively for My Daily Find by Jessica Siegel, Gelson’s Staff Dietitian.  We are thrilled to have her on board and look forward to her column filled with nutritious food tips and accompanying recipes.)

Although any fruit or vegetable you pick from the produce department will be healthful, blueberries are probably one of your best bets for a nutritious and health-promoting fruit. As is the case with most of the colorful fruits and vegetables I recommend, it’s the color in these berries that are the key to their nutritional powers.

Blueberries are often touted as a “superfood” because they are so rich in antioxidants. The protective plant nutrients in blueberries are called anthocyanins, which give them their blue color. Anthocyanins act as antioxidants to protect the body from free radical damage that can lead to heart disease and cancer. Animal studies suggest that blueberries may be good for the brain, as some studies show that they boost memory and help prevent stroke damage. Like cranberries, blueberries may help fight urinary tract infections by preventing E. coli bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Blueberries contain phytonutrients called ellagic acid, which may help fight tumor growth, as well as cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber in the form of pectin.

Nutritionally, these little gems should fit into your diet nicely. Just a half-cup serving contains 40 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 12% of the daily value for vitamin C.

Blueberries are available for most of the year, but they are tastiest in their peak seasons of late spring and summer. Around this time of year, most blueberries are locally grown in California, so you know that they’re extra-fresh and that you’re supporting our state’s economy and helping to cut air pollution when you buy them. When selecting this fruit, look for plump-looking berries that are firm and dry. They should be a deep purple-blue color with a white, powdery bloom. Bloom is a natural coating that helps preserve moisture in the blueberries and prevents them from spoiling too quickly (you also find this harmless bloom on grapes and plums). Check the bottom of the box to make sure that there are no stains—that would indicate that they might be spoiled or crushed. Once you get them home, pick out any shriveled or moldy berries and store them in the refrigerator for up to ten days. To prevent rapid spoilage, avoid washing them until just before you eat or cook with them. If you need to keep them longer, blueberries freeze very well, too.

Blueberries are wonderful when eaten fresh out of hand, in salads and cereal, but they can also be used in batters, sauces, jams, and fillings. This month, try my recipe for Chicken and Arugula Salad with Blueberries.

Jessica Siegel, MPH, RD is the Staff Dietitian for Gelson’s Markets.  She is the author of Nutrition Notes, a monthly newsletter about nutrition, wellness, food and cooking, as well as several healthful recipes, all of which are available in stores and online at www.gelsons.com.  Jessica has also converted thousands of Gelson’s shoppers into better eaters over the years with Recipes from Jessica’s Kitchen, her delightful line of healthful and wholesome prepared foods, available in all of Gelson’s Service Delis.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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