THEY ARE HERE!!! I love summer for many reasons, but one of my favorite summer snacks are blueberries. I'm lucky in that I have four large bushes in my backyard that are prolific producers. I enjoy picking in the morning before it's too hot, but the word is out among the robins, warblers, and starlings. They get up earlier than I do and munch their fair share of what feels like a very precious harvest.
Blueberries are touted as a "superfood" and one of the world's "healthiest foods" for 5 reasons.
1. Blueberries are classified as a low-glycemic index food. Blueberries GI value falls between 40-53. 
What's a glycemic index?
According to the Glycemic Index Foundation, "the Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore usually, insulin levels." 
Why is that good for me?
Having a proper balance sugar levels is one of the body's top priorities. The body will do whatever it takes to get blood sugar back in balance. Because blueberries have a low GI, your blood sugar levels will NOT soar as a result of eating them.
2. They are a "nutrient-dense" food.
What does this mean?
You get a lot of bang for your buck when you eat blueberries because they are low in calories, carbs and sodium, and high in fiber and water content. They are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, copper, and manganese. Blueberries are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc which help improve bone health. 
3. They are high in antioxidants, especially anthocyanin, which is responsible for their deep blue color.
What are antioxidants?
“Antioxidants are compounds found in food that stop or delay damage to the cells,” Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida. They help ward off cell damage by “cleaning up” or removing waste products in our cells, called free radicals, before they can do harm. "'Free radicals' is a general term used for compounds that can attach and bind to and ultimately damage normal [cells] in the body, such as DNA,” Edward Giovannucci, M.D., professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Free radicals are most often implicated in cell damage that leads to cancer development. 
Blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants in them compared to all the foods!
4. Blueberries may lower blood pressure
Blueberries appear to have significant benefits for people with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke and heart attacks.
In one study, obese individuals at a high risk for heart disease noted a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure, after consuming 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of blueberries per day, for eight weeks (5).
Other studies have found similar effects, especially when looking at post-menopausal women (19, 20).
The implications of this are pretty impressive.
5. Blueberries boost your brain health
One of the most impressive health benefits of blueberries is its ability to enhance brain health.
There have been many studies suggesting that eating blueberries can improve memory and cognition.
In a recent 2016 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, consuming a blueberry drink was found to improve cognitive performance compared to a placebo in 21 children.  Another study showed that drinking wild blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks was able to improve the memory of older adults. 
Although blueberries are not on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list, I highly recommend organic. Conventional blueberries contain 52 pesticide chemicals. The thin skin allows the chemicals to enter the fruit's flesh more easily.
Where can I buy organic blueberries in Thurston County?
Carr's Organic Blueberry Farm located on Gull Harbor Road north of town. U-pick is $2.50/lb. They just opened on Sunday, so take your family and stock up.
If you don't eat all of them, put some in the freezer for the remainder of the year and every time you eat them, you'll have fond memories of this summer and get blueberries brilliant health benefits all year long!
3 BONUS RECIPES
Besides snacking on blueberries fresh or frozen, here are 3 great recipes to try this summer. I'm eating my fair share of blueberries every day and so should you.
Blueberry, grilled chicken, toasted walnut, and blue cheese salad - serves 4
4 cups greens (mix and match/blend as desired lettuce, chard, kale, spinach, arugula)
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 grilled organic chicken breasts (halved and chopped)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently, until fragrant, browned, and not burned.
Halve the chicken breast and grill on both sides until internal temperature reaches 165 degres.
In a large bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard together. Taste and season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Pour out about half of the dressing into a small bowl. Add lettuce, blueberries, walnuts, chopped grilled chicken and the cheese to the large bowl and gently toss. Add more dressing as needed.
Blueberry Smoothie just for you!
1 cup blueberries
1/2 avocado or 1/2 green tipped banana cut into chunks
1 cup coconut milk
3 - 4 ice cubes
1 Tbsp flax seed oil
1 Tbsp MCT oil
1 scoop collagen powder
In a blender, combine all of the ingredients.
Blend on low until the blender gains traction, then ramp up to the highest speed as soon as possible. Stop to scrape down the sides or add more milk if necessary.
Lemon-Herb Chicken Skewers with Blueberry-Balsamic Salsa
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, each cut into 6 pieces (about 1 pound)
1 cup blueberries, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
Drop garlic through food chute with food processor on; process until chopped. Add parsley and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper); process until finely chopped. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine. Combine herb mixture and chicken in a medium bowl; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Wipe out food processor.
Combine 1/2 cup blueberries, vinegar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes or until thickened, pressing with a spoon to break up blueberries. Place blueberry mixture in a medium bowl. Add remaining 1/2 cup blueberries to food processor; pulse 5 times. Combine chopped blueberries, 1/8 teaspoon salt, onion, and jalapeño pepper with vinegar mixture.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
Thread 6 chicken pieces evenly onto each of 4 (8-inch) skewers. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve with blueberry salsa.
Works Cited  "World's Healthiest Foods." The George Mateljan Foundation. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=8. Web. 23 July 2018.
 "What is GI?" The Glycemic Index Foundation. https://www.gisymbol.com/about-glycemic-index/. Web 23 July 2018.
 USDA. "Blueberry Nutrition Facts." https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/09050?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=blueberries&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=. Web 23 July 2018.
 Marturana, Amy. "What Antioxidants actually do for your body." Jan 27, 2017. Self Magazine. https://www.self.com/story/what-antioxidants-are-and-actually-do. Web. 23 July 2018.
 Arpita Basu, et al. "Blueberries Decrease Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Obese Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome." The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 140, Issue 9, 1 September 2010, Pages 1582–1587,https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.124701.
 Whyte, A.R., Schafer, G. & Williams, C.M. Eur J Nutr (2016) 55: 2151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-1029-4. Web 23 July 2018.
 Krikorian, Robert et al. “Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 58.7 (2010): 3996–4000. PMC. Web. 23 July 2018.