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Prairie Fare: Don’t Forget to Eat Some Blueberries

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
A U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed that aging rats fed antioxidant-rich blueberry, strawberry or spinach extracts showed improvement in short-term memory.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Recently I was perusing a book chapter about feeding dogs, since we have a couple of dachshunds. I came upon an interesting list of foods. The list highlighted foods that were especially good for dogs.

Interesting thing, all the foods were great for their human “parents,” too.

Blueberries were among the notable foods on the list. So, of course, I grabbed a few fresh blueberries from a carton in our refrigerator and put them near our dachshunds.

Sure enough, our pups were intrigued with the berries and pushed them around on the floor with their noses until finally gobbling them. Then they begged for more. I’m sure they appreciated the change from plain dog food.

Of course, I’m not encouraging you to push blueberries around with your nose on the floor or any other place, but I am encouraging you to enjoy blueberries more often. Blueberries and other berries are superstars in the nutrition world because of their high antioxidant content.

Antioxidants are natural chemicals that combat the effects of environmental contaminants that can damage your cells. Antioxidant-rich foods are linked to helping prevent cancer and aging.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed that aging rats fed antioxidant-rich blueberry, strawberry or spinach extracts showed improvement in short-term memory. In human years, the 19-month-old rats were 65 to 70 years old.

For example, the rats had to walk along a narrow rod. Usually aging rats can maneuver the narrow path for 5 seconds. After they had blueberry extract, they could stay on board for 11 seconds.

British researchers at Reading University recently took this research a step farther. After conducting studies with rats in mazes, they reported that aging rats fed blueberries had better memory function. They didn’t get lost as easily.

The researchers concluded that natural chemicals in blueberries, called flavonoids, may encourage aging nerves that carry signals to the brain to regenerate. They plan studies with people to determine if there could be a link between eating more blueberries and slowing the onset of dementia or possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

Fresh blueberries are in season. Sprinkle some on your cereal or have a berry smoothie. Blueberries have just 40 calories per half cup, plus they provide fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Blueberries are available in frozen and dried forms to enjoy when they are not in season.

Colorful fruits and vegetables of all types provide health benefits. Taste the rainbow of produce colors.

Of course, along with a healthy diet, you may want to add regular physical activity and challenging mental activities, such as dancing or learning new hobbies, to keep your mind and body functioning well, too.

Here’s a tasty recipe to get you started down the blueberry path.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 egg

1/2 c. nonfat milk

1/2 c. nonfat vanilla yogurt

3 Tbsp. canola or sunflower oil

2 tsp. grated lemon peel (yellow only)

2 c. flour

1/2 c. sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries*


3 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Position the rack in the center of the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, yogurt, oil and lemon peel. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt onto the liquid ingredients. Using a fork, stir very lightly, just until ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into an 8- or 9-inch baking pan coated with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the cake batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the baking pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

  • You can use frozen blueberries, but be sure to thaw and drain them.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 250 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 45 g of carbohydrate and 2 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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