Healthy eating begins in the morning. Today’s wide range of blueberry-rich breakfast choices means a delicious start to the day for everyone. Blueberries are a natural for breakfast―from bagels, bars and muffins, to cereals, yogurts, syrups and smoothies.
Eat your breakfast
Now, more than ever, research is underscoring the importance of a good breakfast for all age groups. For adults, breakfast can help with weight control, and the importance of breakfast for growing children is well documented.
More than 30 years ago, research at the University of Iowa Medical College found that children who skipped breakfast had trouble concentrating at school and became inattentive and restless by late morning. These behavior problems, linked to low blood sugar levels, are counterproductive to learning. These findings helped confirm that hungry children cannot perform well. To address this problem, Congress enacted the School Breakfast Program (SBP) as part of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The SBP supports an annual National School Breakfast Week to emphasize the importance of a nutritious breakfast. Research shows that a good breakfast can:
• Improve test scores, especially in math
• Boost attendance and on-time arrival
• Reduce disruption in class
Some studies have shown that children participating in a school breakfast program had improved test scores, as well as reduced rates of tardiness and absenteeism.
All fruit is good, blueberries are great
We hear a lot about “superfruits,” and blueberries certainly qualify. Incorporating even ½ cup (72.5 grams) of blueberries into a healthy breakfast is a convenient way to improve daily amounts of required nutrients. Fruit maturity at harvest, growing condition, type of cultivar, and other variables affect the actual nutrient levels, but, in general, blueberries can provide vitamin A (40 IU per ½ cup), vitamin C (7.2 mg per ½ cup), potassium (57mg per ½ cup) and folate (4.5μg per ½ cup). In addition, blueberries are low in fat and sodium. (Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Rel 20 (2007) NDB No: 09050.)
Every day, it seems, there’s some new super blueberry news that adds to the many reasons for enjoying blueberries. In the May 25 New York Times Sunday Book Review, a review of a book called “Can’t Remember What I Forgot” by Sue Halpern contains the line: “After reading her section on blueberries...you’ll want to buy them by the bucketful.”
In an article in Time Magazine, “Memory: Forgetting Is the New Normal,” Halpern wrote about new research: “According to Jim Joseph, a neuroscientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Boston, blueberries seem to have nearly magical powers: they zap free radicals (highly reactive atoms that can damage tissue), reverse aging, enhance cognition and—and this is the kicker—cause new neurons to grow.” She describes an animal study in which Joseph and his associates developed a series of motor-skills tests, noting that the animals raised on a special blueberry diet “did significantly better than those that were not, leading Joseph to conclude that ‘blueberries were actually able to reverse motor deficits in these aging animals.’ More remarkably, when mice that had been genetically altered to express Alzheimer's were put on the blueberry diet, they did not experience memory loss.”
New assay taps blueberries as highest in antioxidants
Like many other fruits and vegetables, blueberries contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules linked to the development of a number of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to their antioxidant activity, these tiny, sweet morsels are a good source of vitamin C and manganese.
Cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) measures the antioxidant content of foods. This new method, which was presented in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, is reported to be a more biologically relevant method because, according to the researchers, “it accounts for some aspects of uptake, metabolism and location of antioxidant compounds within cells.”
Picking blueberry ingredients
Blueberries belong to the genus Vaccinium. The family includes the Highbush (V. corymbosum and V. ashei) and the Native American “wild” low bush (V. augustifolium). Highbush blueberries represent 57% of total North American blueberry production.
For food processors, blueberries are the perfect breakfast ingredient. Not only do they provide a healthy profile, they have that sweet, fruity, burst-in-the-mouth flavor that everybody loves. Blueberries are available year round in many convenient forms:
Fresh: Available almost year round.
Frozen: Available in individually quick frozen (IQF) or straight pack formats, these are great in formulations where fruit identity is important. Use as base ingredient for toppings, fillings, syrups and soups. Store 0 to -10 ºF (-18 to -23 ºC).
Dried: Made by removing most moisture from the blueberry, these impart an intense fruit flavor and work well in dry mixes and other applications. They are available as 100% dehydrated blueberries, as well as sugar-infused, whole or diced. They can be further processed to dried-fruit specs. Moisture range is 11% to 18 %; water activity is 0.5 to 0.6. They are shelf stable when stored in a cool, dry place.
Freeze-dried: Dried blueberries have a moisture level of around 2% to 3%. Freeze-dried berries maintain fruit size; drum-dried berries can be made into a powder or flakes.
Powder: Moisture content of the powder is 3% to 5%. Drum-dried blueberry powder is available in various screen sizes and granules. This ingredient is stable at room temperature for 3 months; after that, store at 40º F.
Juice concentrate: Use this ingredient where a shelf-stable liquid is needed.
Brix ranges include 20, 37, 40 and 70 ºBrix; the pH ranges from 2.8 to 3.4. Juice concentrates should be stored at 0 ºF to 10ºF (-18 ºC to -23ºC).
In addition to the above examples, other formats such as blueberry juice, purée and canned blueberries are available. Check with your supplier directly for specifics. Click here for an online supplier list.
What about the Skippers?
The Skippers are those people who regularly skip breakfast. Breakfast Skippers come in all ages and sizes. They have every reason under the sun to skip breakfast. But whatever their objections, think blueberries for the answer. Here are a few, based on the USDA’s Human Nutrition Information Center:
“I’m in a hurry. I have no time”
Blueberries are a great fit for foods that are ready-to-eat or need little prep time. They are easy to incorporate in yogurts, cottage cheese, ready-to-eat cold cereals and instant breakfast mixes.
“I need something I can grab and go...”
Fresh blueberries are the perfect out-of-hand snack, and frozen or dried blueberries are a convenient, always-available ingredient for breakfast pastries, bagels, breakfast bars and trail mixes. In bar formulations and baked goods, blueberries keep the product moist while adding flavor and mouthwatering appeal. Dehydrated blueberries are perfect in all baking mixes, even in sticky dough, because they hold up to the mix. Blueberries contain no fat or cholesterol and are a source of fiber. Natural blueberries give bagels color, texture and a delicious chewy extra.
“I want something to perk up my cereal”
Blueberries add color, nutrition and full lush taste to both cold and hot cereals.
“I’m not hungry in the morning”
Blueberries are a favorite in smoothies, commercial drinkable yogurts, milkshakes and juices. In fact, blueberries were the original smoothie ingredient in foodservice―just add frozen blueberries to the blender and push the button. Blueberries are blendable with a variety of ingredients. Use in rice and soy beverages. Add to milk products. Combine with fruits and vegetables and create innovative combinations of flavor. The blueberry provides a punch of color plus antioxidant benefits. Convenient formats, such blueberry juice and blueberry purée, provide year-round blueberry availability for beverage manufacturers.
“I’m on a diet.”
Evidence shows that skipping meals does not help in losing weight. In fact, people who skip breakfast tend to eat more later in the day. Blueberries are nutritionally dense, contain 14 grams carbohydrate/100 grams, are low in calories and virtually fat free. Further, they contain no cholesterol, are a source of fiber and contain some vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Blueberries by the Book
In his new book, “Emeril’s There’s a Chef in My Family,” Emeril Lagasse includes a special Mother’s Day breakfast. He calls it “Ooey Gooey Blueberry French Toast,” which is described as “a cross between French toast and bread pudding—two of my favorite things to eat any time of the day. It is rich and creamy and ooey and gooey and chock full of blueberries all at the same time.” Not only is it bursting with ultra-nutritious blueberries, it’s topped with a blueberry sauce. “Don’t skip the blueberry topping,” Emeril advises; “it’s the crowning glory!” He suggests spooning blueberry sauce over pancakes, waffles and chunks of melon.
In his book “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life,” Dr. Steven Pratt says: “Everybody loves blueberries and there are few foods more densely packed with healthful benefits.” He especially enjoys them for breakfast in many different ways. In his book, he provides a list of “My Favorite Ways to Eat Blueberries”:
• Sprinkle berries and wheat germ on yogurt.
• Mix frozen berries into hot oatmeal.
• Toss onto cold cereal.
• Whip into smoothies with yogurt, banana, ice, and soy or nonfat milk.
• Drop some onto whole-wheat buttermilk pancakes just before turning them.
• Enjoy a cup of berries in soymilk sweetened with buckwheat honey.
• Nibble from a big bowl of fresh blueberries while sitting on the porch.
He also writes: “My wife and I munch on fresh berries while having our morning hot beverage. My favorite way to eat them is to take a bowl of berries, add a sliced banana, pour over ½ to 1 cup of soymilk, drizzle the whole thing with 1 to 2 teaspoons of buckwheat honey, and mash it all with a fork. Sound weird? Try it; you’ll be a convert.”
Need more ideas? Here are more breakfast-food product concepts with blueberries:
Blueberry Bars, Blueberry Bread Blueberry Pudding, Blueberry Casserole, Blueberry Burritos, Blueberry Calzones, Blueberry Fritters, Blueberry Pizza, Blueberry Wrap;
Blueberry Bites, Blueberry Strata, Blueberry Bagels, Blueberry Gingerbread, Blueberry Swirl, Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Johnny cakes, Blueberry Quiche, Blueberry Parfait, Blueberry Foccacia, Blueberry Granola, Blueberry Oatmeal, Blueberry Muesli;
Blueberry Sushi, Blueberry Grits, Blueberry Crunch Bars, Blueberry Silver Dollar Pancakes.
For further information: U. S. Highbush Blueberry Council, c/o Thomas J. Payne Market Development, PO Box 281525, San Francisco, CA 94128-1525; Ph. 800-824-6395; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .; Website: www.blueberry.org .