While the average person probably does not keep up with the medley of obscure holidays and other designated observances, there is one observance you should mark on your calendar. July 8th is specifically designated as National Blueberry Day to spread awareness of the various health benefits of blueberries.
With ancient origins dating back to over 13,000 years, blueberries have been an important food source for Native Americans, though it wasn’t until 1912 that the first cultivated blueberries were successfully grown. Compared to regular blueberries, wild blueberries are smaller in size and have less water content, leading to a sweeter and more intense flavor. Wild blueberries thrive in the cold, acidic soils of Maine and neighboring regions of Canada, where they cover meadows and groves in idyllic swaths of indigo. Half-high berries are a cross between larger high-bush species and cold tolerant lowbush varieties – synonymous with wild blueberries.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Known for being nutritionally dense, blueberries have been termed a superfruit due to the array of health benefits they possess. Many studies have suggested a link between consumption of blueberries to improving heart health, bone health, and a reduced risk of lifestyle-related health conditions. One cup of blueberries can provide 24% of your daily vitamin C and 36% of daily Vitamin K. Their vibrant blue color is due to a plant compound called anthocyanin, a beneficial flavonoid from which many of their health benefits are derived.
Elastin and collagen, the two main compounds that give skin structure, become more susceptible to damage as you age, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin. Things like stress and smoking can accelerate aging and hinder your body’s ability to fight off free radicals, harmful molecules linked to aging and chronic diseases. The anthocyanins and Vitamin C in blueberries can prevent skin damage associated with sun, pollution, or smoke, and enhance skin quality by boosting collagen production.
The fiber in blueberries can help prevent constipation and contribute to weight loss. Fiber is also instrumental in supporting a healthy digestive tract, with an imbalance of bacteria linked to inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Unlike with sugary treats, blueberries are so high in fiber that they will reduce appetite and produce a feeling of satiety, leading to decreased calorie consumption.
Studies have shown that the memory boosting antioxidants in blueberries are connected to improved brain function and slower mental decline. Antioxidants are essential in reducing oxidative stress, which occurs due to the presence of free radicals and can impair brain function. Blueberries can also help maintain a sharper memory and improve motor coordination.
Blueberries have been found to improve heart health and circulation, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Antioxidants in blueberries can reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels, which are a predominant risk factor for heart disease and can accumulate due to unhealthy diets high in trans and saturated fats. They can also lower blood pressure, another significant contributor of heart disease. Furthermore, they can lead to improved outcomes for those suffering with diabetes by promoting a more stable blood sugar response.
A little-known benefit is that blueberries have the potential to improve the rate of muscle recovery after strenuous exercise caused by inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as support wound healing. If you are an athlete or workout enthusiast, consider drinking a blueberry smoothie to help you recover after a tough workout.
How to Celebrate National Blueberry Day
A versatile addition to desserts, smoothies, and drinks and one of the most accessible and common fruits in the world, blueberries can make a positive change in one’s health. Since July is high season for blueberries, take advantage of the low prices and nutritious taste and celebrate by incorporating blueberries into your food in creative ways.
- Go Blueberry Picking
Look for local blueberry farms to see if there are blueberry picking opportunities available. Grab a bucket and savor the tangy taste of blueberries straight from the bush. If there are unfortunately no farms nearby, you can still try out some of the other fun activities.
- Try Out Some Exciting Recipes
- Grow Your Own Blueberries
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider growing your own blueberries in your backyard or patio, making sure you have adequate sunlight and acidic soil. While blueberries are usually planted mid-October or early spring, it is a good idea to start planning and selecting varieties suitable to your region. Dwarf varieties are available for compact gardeners as well as lemonade pink cultivars for those seeking to add a splash of color.
Why you Should Grow Blueberries in Raised Beds
Though the prospect of growing blueberries can deter gardeners due to perceived difficulty, growing blueberries in raised garden beds can alleviate many of the difficulties associated with growing blueberries. For best results, choose a garden bed that is 15 to 18 inches high and 3 feet wide in order to provide adequate drainage and aeration. An easy remedy in keeping soil acidic is to add elemental sulfur. Some varieties that do well in raised beds include Pink Popcorn, Powder Blue, and Top Hat.
- Control Soil Quality
- Pest and Weed Deterrence
- Fruitful Produce
Raised beds contain optimal conditions for growth, resulting in an abundant yield, improved fruit blush color, and more even fruit maturity. An established blueberry plant will typically produce 8 pounds of fruit, with half-high plants producing 1 – 3 lbs. per plant. It should be noted that blueberries require at least 3 years to reach maturity and won’t produce much in the initial years. However, in the right environment, blueberry bushes can live to be more than 50 years old. Fresh blueberries, especially organic ones, can be expensive. Though the initial investment may be somewhat high, growing blueberries will pay off in the long run as the crop grows exponentially and rewards you with brilliant blue fruit.