The health benefits of dried fruit are well established as a nutritious and versatile snack. In general, dried fruit retains much of the same health-giving qualities that exist in fresh fruit. The good news is, dried blueberries are no different. Dried blueberries are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They’re incredibly healthy, convenient and hit the spot when you haven’t got fresh blueberries at hand.
With plenty of research to support their effects on brain, gut and heart health, dried blueberries are a sweet treat you need in your pantry. Here’s everything you need to know about the health benefits of dried blueberries.
All About Blueberries
Blueberries are part of the vaccinium genus of flowering perennial plants. Blueberries are a type of shrub known as a prostrate shrub which are usually small in size, extending up to 4 metres at its highest point of growth. Blueberries are pea-sized berries with a pale fleshy interior. Blueberries have tiny seeds at their centre and characteristic indigo-purple skin. They’re subtly sweet and have a perfume unlike any other berry. Belonging to the same plant family, blueberries are related to cranberries, huckleberries and bilberries.
Blueberries that are grown commercially are known as wild (lowbush) or cultivated (highbush) varieties. Both varieties are widely available around the world, yet highbush blueberries are the most common. In 2019, the United States and Canada were the leading producers of both lowbush and highbush blueberries. With advancements in agricultural methods, blueberries now grow very well in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and other southern hemispheric countries.
How Are Dried Blueberries Made?
Much of the world's production of dried blueberries hail from parts of northeastern United States, including Oregon. Dried blueberries are made in the same manner as sultanas, raisins, cranberries and similar dried fruits. They can be air-dried, sun-dried or preserved using chemical sulphites.
The best dried blueberries taste as close to nature as possible. They’re often preserved with healthy plant oils, like sunflower oil and may have a bit of sugar added. The fact that premium dried blueberries are minimally processed ensures a truer flavour and earthy colour. They should resemble the original fruit in its most natural form. Some dried blueberry manufacturers will use synthetic additives to preserve their product. If in doubt, read the labels for sulphites, preservatives or any other added ingredients.
Nutrient Content of Dried Blueberries
Blueberries are a low GI, nutrient-dense dark berry that boasts some wonderful nutrients for its tiny size. The advantages of blueberries in human health have been well documented and are supported in scientific research. Blueberries are a good source of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin K. They also contain trace amounts of selenium, iron, beta-carotene and B vitamins.
Bioactive Compounds in Dried Blueberries
- Phenolic acids
What really makes blueberries so unique is their anthocyanin content. This polyphenol gives blueberries its distinctive and vibrant purple colour. Aside from açai berries, blueberries are amongst the highest anthocyanin-containing foods in the world. Anthocyanins are categorised as a flavonoid, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The anthocyanins found in blueberries have been broadly found to protect against DNA damage, augment cognition and protect against heart disease.
Health Benefits of Dried Blueberries
✓ High in antioxidants
✓ Abundant in anthocyanins
✓ Improves brain health and memory
✓ Protects against disease and cancer
✓ Protects against Alzheimer’s
Fresh and dried blueberries impart much of the same nutritional and health benefits. These benefits can be observed across the lifespan in several academic studies. Research in children’s health, adults and geriatric health have all demonstrated the various health benefits of blueberry products. Read on to discover how you and your whole family can benefit from dried blueberries.
Wild Blueberry Anthocyanins Are Cardioprotective
A clinical review published in The Journals of Gerontology assessed the effects of anthocyanins on vascular function. In this paper, anthocyanins in wild blueberries had a beneficial effect on endothelial function in a dose-dependent manner. This means that the improvements on vascular function were increased when more blueberry extract was added. Anthocyanins improve blood vessel relaxation, which makes blueberries a healthy choice to promote cardiovascular health.
Blueberry Compounds Are Gastroprotective
A recent study from the Tokyo University of Science has identified a unique bioactive compound in certain foods that is protective in human health. A polyphenol called pterostilbene, found in almonds and blueberries, has shown powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. This means foods containing pterostilbene have the therapeutic potential to protect against chronic disease, inflammation and cancer.
According to this study, pterostilbene is molecularly similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, grapes and peanuts. These two compounds have a similar mechanism of action in the intestinal tract, with the authors concluding that pterostilbene ‘ameliorates colonic inflammation’. This finding is a promising discovery in the future treatment for chronic inflammatory bowel conditions. Blueberries, dried or fresh, contain biologically active polyphenols that can protect against gastrointestinal diseases.
Blueberry Flavonoids Improve Cognitive Function in Children
Flavonoids (anthocyanins) have been found to be neuroprotective and enhance brain health. In a small double-blind crossover study involving 21 children, the benefits of dried blueberry powder were examined. Each child was randomised to receive 30g of freeze-dried blueberry powder or placebo before undergoing a series of tests to measure cognitive function. The results revealed the children who consumed blueberry powder were ‘significantly faster’ in their responses to difficult and demanding tasks. The authors of this clinical trial concluded that wild blueberry can enhance executive function in young children during demanding cognitive tasks.
Blueberry Improves Brain Health in Adults
The cognitive benefits of blueberries high in polyphenols have been highlighted in many studies. Another modest-sized clinical trial published in the European journal of nutrition was conducted to determine the benefits of wild blueberry on brain health in mid-aged adults. A group of middle aged adults, (ranging in age from 40-65) were randomised to receive a wild blueberry drink or placebo. After completing a series of cognitive tasks to measure executive function and memory, those who consumed blueberry scored much better than placebo.
The group that consumed the blueberry drink showed faster response times and better short-term memory. This trend was maintained across an 8 hour testing period, with the blueberry group demonstrating consistently better cognitive outcomes.
Blueberry Enhances Elderly Cognition & Memory
A French study from 2017 also reported on the cognitive benefits of blueberries. This study examined the effects of blueberry extract in age-related neurological conditions. Here, 30ml of blueberry concentrate (387 mg of anthocyanidins) was consumed by a small group of elderly participants. Inflammation and oxidative stress markers were also measured. The results showed that brain activity increased following blueberry supplementation. 12 weeks of blueberry concentrate supplementation proved to enhance cognitive function and working memory in a group of healthy older adults.
How To Store Dried Blueberries
The easiest way is in the packet they are bought in! Otherwise, store your dried blueberries in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. Preferably in a cool and dry spot, or even in the fridge. Dried blueberries usually have a 9 month shelf-life if stored correctly.
How to use dried blueberries
Dried blueberries are wonderful in slices, cakes, muffins, desserts, trail mixes or eaten straight from the palm of your hand! Use dried blueberries wherever you’d use dried cranberries, sultanas, raisins or currants. One of the best things about dried blueberries is that they’re available all year round, so you can enjoy them whenever you want. If you can’t get fresh blueberries or your freezer is full to the brim (sorry frozen blueberries!), then dried blueberries are the way to go.
For something extra special that’s technically very healthy too, check out these dark chocolate blueberries. Oh yes! Vegan, gluten-free and Australian-made. These babies are a celebration of when good things align with nutrition and deliciousness. Belgium dark chocolate-coated dried blueberries are full of antioxidants and make a great treat for when you want something sweet.
Dried Blueberry Power Bars
This recipe is as healthy as it is delicious. It’s the perfect way to enjoy dried blueberries. What’s even better, is we’ve doubled down on the antioxidants by adding dark chocolate chips to the mix. These bars are relatively low in carbohydrates, full of healthy fats, fibre and minerals. Enjoy as a pre-workout gym snack, lunch box treat or mid-afternoon pick-me-up treat.
Dried Blueberry Power Bars
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour
- 1 tablespoons ground linseeds
- 1/4 tsp. Sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
- 2 tbsp. Coconut sugar or raw sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup dried blueberries (soaked in water for 5 mins to rehydrate)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
- In a large bowl, combined almond flour, coconut flour, ground linseeds, salt and baking soda
- With an electric mixer, beat in coconut sugar and eggs
- Fold in dried blueberries and chocolate chips
- Spread evenly into a 20cm square slice tin, pressing into the corners of the tray
- Bake for 15 mins until slightly golden
- Allow to cool for 5 mins before slicing. Enjoy!
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