Summer is here, and while you are enjoying the warm weather outdoors, you may have to noticed a bright attractive indigo colour at various farmer’s markets and grocery stores. BC blueberry season is back.
When we think of blueberries, blueberry cheesecake or tart may come to mind, but there’s more to the fruit than being an ingredient for delicious desserts.
BC blueberries are tasty eaten fresh or mixed in a salad, made into chutney, added to ras malai, or mixed into yogurt. And including BC blueberries in your diet can help you achieve optimal health and lower the risks of various health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
Aman Sandhu, a registered dietician at Nutrition to You, points out that the common health problems seen amongst the South Asian community are diabetes and heart disease.
“South Asians are up to six times more likely to have diabetes and twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease at a young age compared to the general population,” she says, adding that although genetics and ethnicity can play a role in the development of these health problems, poor lifestyle choices can also increase the risks.
Her advice is to include blueberries in your daily diet. “Incorporating blueberries to a healthy balanced diet can both prevent and manage a vast array of diseases such hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”
BC blueberries, which can be bought fresh in July until the beginning of October, are high in antioxidants. Sandhu reveals, “Antioxidants are known as free-radical reducing agents which can lower risks of certain types of cancers. Recent studies have suggested these antioxidants also play some role in heart health.”
The fruit is packed with several key nutrients and beneficial properties, especially for women and older adults. Sandhu explains, “Antioxidants such as Anthocyanins, which gives blueberries its rich blue colour, has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease in women. These antioxidants have also proven to protect nerve cells from oxidative damage, therefore potentially delaying cognitive delay in older adults.”
Blueberries are also packed with vitamin C that helps collagen formation, maintains healthy gums as well as a healthy immune system. They’re also known as a ‘diabetes superfood’. “Diabetes is a disease where either your body is unable to produce enough insulin or the insulin it does produce does not function effectively,” Sandhu explains.
“Insulin is the vehicle that keeps blood sugars in control. In order to prevent further diabetes related complications, it is very crucial to maintain target blood sugars. Blueberries, like all other fruits, digest into sugars in our bodies and supply our body with fuel or energy. However, unlike processed grains or fruit juices that can spike blood sugars, blueberries are very high in fibre. Fibre helps slow the digestion of blueberries; therefore they don’t turn into sugar as quickly.”
One cup of blueberries is packed with up to 4-6 grams of fibre. “Fibre is also associated with weight loss. Since fibre slows the digestion and adds bulk to food, it increases satiety, which in return reduces caloric intake. Obesity is one of the leading risk factors of diabetes, therefore making fibre a rich food choice that can reduce weight and significantly reduce the risks of diabetes,” expresses Sandhu.
To achieve its maximum benefits, Sandhu recommends adding half or one cup of blueberries daily to your meal plan. The best way to enjoy the fruit is in its natural form. “Juices, sauces or other processed forms of fruit can be very high in sugar, but low in fibre,” says Sandhu.
British Columbia is one of the largest highbush blueberry-growing regions in the world. The blueberry industry has been around since the early 1900s in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver regions. The BC Blueberry Council, which just celebrated their 25th anniversary, represents over 800 blueberry growers. B.C. blueberries are also frozen, dried, juiced, puréed and powdered, available for year round-distribution throughout Canada and around the world.
Try these delicious and healthy blueberry recipes.
Blueberry Coconut Chia Pudding with Grapefruit
Start your day right with this delicious breakfast chia pudding. Chia seeds are high in fibre and protein, making them a great option for breakfast when combined with BC blueberries. Substitute regular or almond milk for the coconut milk for a change of pace.
1¾ cups (400 ml) light coconut milk (1 can)
2 cups (300 g) B.C. blueberries, fresh or frozen, divided
½ cup (120 ml) grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup (60 ml) maple syrup
⅛ tsp (pinch) salt
½ cup (80 g) chia seeds
3 tbsp (15g) coconut, shaved or shredded
2 tbsp (10 g) granola
In a blender, mix the coconut milk, 1 cup of the blueberries, grapefruit juice, maple syrup and salt.
Pour the mixture in a large bowl, whisk in the chia seeds, let stand for 10 minutes and whisk again to distribute the seeds.
Refrigerate for three hours or overnight.
Spoon into bowls or layer in jars with remaining blueberries, coconut and granola.
Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is a light dessert that’s perfect for warm weather. For an added Indian flavour, add cardamom to the cream while it’s heating.
1 ½ cups (225 g) B.C. blueberries, fresh or frozen
⅓ cup (75 g) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon zest
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, minimum 35% milk fat
⅓ cup (75 g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon zest
2 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 ml) lavender buds
1 tbsp (15 ml) gelatin
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
In a saucepan boil the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until thickened, yet still saucy. Stir frequently, breaking down the blueberries with the back of a spoon.
Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture to the bottom of six 4 ounce glasses, save half for the topping. Place the glasses in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the panna cotta mixture.
In a saucepan, heat the cream, sugar, lemon zest, juice and lavender. Stir frequently until it just starts to boil, turn heat off and cover to keep warm.
In a large bowl sprinkle the gelatin over the buttermilk, let stand for a minute then whisk.
Strain the warm cream mixture into the gelatin buttermilk mixture and whisk to blend. Transfer to a spouted measuring cup for pouring.
Gently pour the mixture over the back of a spoon into the glasses until three-quarters full, being careful not to disturb the blueberry mixture in the bottom.
Refrigerate covered for a minimum of three hours.
Once chilled, top with the remaining blueberry sauce and serve.
Baked Blueberry Doughnuts
Baking your doughnuts is a great way to make a classic treat more healthy. BC blueberries add a sweet tang to this doughnut. Serve with tea or coffee.
¾ cup (110 g) B.C. blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
¾ cup (100 g) all-purpose unbleached flour, plus ½ tsp
¼ cup (50 g) extra fine granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
½ tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon
¼ tsp (pinch) ground nutmeg
¼ tsp (pinch) salt
1 (50 g) large egg
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp (30 ml) salted butter, melted and slightly cooled
¼ cup (60 ml) mple syrup
½ cup (65 g) icing sugar - sifted
Pre-heat oven to 350°F/160°C with rack positioned in the centre. Generously butter a non-stick doughnut pan.
Toss a ½ tsp of flour with the blueberries and set aside. Do not thaw if using frozen blueberries.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
In small bowl whisk the egg, milk and vanilla, slowly mix in the melted butter, add the blueberries.
Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Do not over mix.
Carefully spoon the batter into the doughnut pan and bake for 14-16 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
To make the icing, whisk the maple syrup and icing sugar until well blended.
Pour the glaze over the cooled doughnuts and allow to set.