Summertime is blueberry time!

By Yaakov Levine, NTP

Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

There are many reasons to avoid the empty carbohydrate calories from sweetened foods that are so common in the grocery store. We have an epidemic of diabetes, and obesity, and here are a few dietary tips to improve your health. Instead of high-sugar processed treats, enjoy some fresh or frozen blueberries: healthy, delicious and good for you!

We have many local farms that sell fresh-picked berries, or get some exercise as a bonus at a U-pick farm, such as Creswell Blueberries.

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a board-certified nutrition specialist, nationally known author and expert on weight loss and nutrition, offers the following 10 ways we can cut back on our sugar intake (from his book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”):

Don’t add sugar to foods. This is the easiest and most basic way to immediately reduce the amount of sugar you are eating. Biggest targets: cereal, coffee and tea.

Don’t be fooled by “healthy sugar” disguises. Brown sugar, turbinado sugar, raw sugar… it’s all pretty much the same thing far as your body is concerned!

Make a real effort to eliminate or reduce processed carbohydrates. Most processed carbs – breads, bagels, and most pastas and snacks – are loaded with flour and other ingredients that convert to sugar in the body almost as fast as pure glucose. The sugar gets stored as triglycerides, which is a fancy way of saying fat!

Watch out for fat-free snacks. One of the biggest myths is that if a food is fat-free it doesn’t make you fat. Fat-free does not mean calorie-free, and most fat-free snacks are loaded with sugar.

Shop for color. The more your grocery basket looks like a cornucopia of color, the better. It usually means you are getting more fresh vegetables and low-glycemic fruits such as berries and cherries.

Become a food detective. This tip is from author and nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, who adds “To reduce sugar, you have to know where it is first.” Start reading labels.

Beware of artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, they can increase cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. They can deplete the body’s stores of chromium, a nutrient crucial for blood sugar metabolism, and can contribute to insulin spikes.

Do the math. Look at the label where it says “total sugars” and divide the number of grams by four. That is the number of teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting.

Limit fruit. (Notice I didn’t say, “eliminate”). Fruit has sugar, but it also has fiber and good nutrients. Just don’t overdo it. For weight loss purposes, eat two servings a day and try to make most of them low- glycemic, such as berries since they are low in sugar.

Eliminate fruit juice. It’s a pure sugar hit with none of the fiber and fewer of the nutrients found in the fruit itself.

Researchers have found that freezing blueberries breaks up the cell walls and helps us get the full benefits of all of the nutrients, especially the antioxidants.

At the market or farm, chose blueberries that are deep blue and ripe; they will be at their peak of nutritional benefits.

If the berries have a red tinge, put them in the fridge in a paper bag and the natural ethylene gas they produce will help complete the ripening process.

Here is one of my favorite blueberry recipes created by Heather Isely of Natural Grocers and the daughter of our company’s founders. I sampled this recipe at our store on Mother’s Day to wide acclaim. Salud!