Exam season is quickly approaching, and it’s officially the time of the year when I declare blueberries as my favorite food. Once again I find myself at Whole Foods, filling my cart with the last packs of organic blueberries I can find. My pre-exam ritual is one of the smartest things I’ve incorporated into my college life. How could you not want to munch on these luscious little berries as you sit in the library to write your 20-page lab report, or struggle to figure out what the deuterium isotope effect is?
As a pre-med student, I have developed a strong interest in brain health. I spend a lot of my time listening to podcasts and reading about the body, and I have realized how essential blueberries are to living a healthy life. When they’re ripe, blueberries emit a sweet taste, as they contain some sugar. Surprisingly though, they do not cause blood sugar spikes, since they are full of fiber and compounds such as anthocyanins, which ultimately lead to their slowed digestion. Apart from being delicious, they provide us with a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants, making them an incredible source of brain and body fuel. Several hundred years ago, blueberries were often used to lower fevers and calm digestive issues. Today, research shows that blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties that can be linked to a decrease in chronic inflammation and diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Accordingly, it is not surprising that they top the list of my favorite berries. And what makes them even more appealing is the fact that blueberries last for weeks in the fridge (unlike raspberries, which often have mold on them before they’re even brought home from the store). Moreover, you can incorporate blueberries into almost any meal and any time of the day, which makes them perfect for a busy college student like me.
My preferences haven’t changed much as I’ve grown up. I have loved blueberries since I was a toddler. It’s not because they taste better than any other berry or fruit on the market, but because they’ve always been present at times when I’m doing things I love. In Sweden, my family often went on excursions to a nearby forest. Swedish forests are famous for being covered with small blueberry bushes, or as Scandinavian blueberries are actually called, bilberries. My brothers and I always picked and munched on them as we ran around in the woods.
Unlike the many types of blueberries one can find in the U.S., most European blueberries are always red or blue inside. My pre-school teachers helped us paint with the red juices from squished blueberries, so it was not rare for me to come home with my clothes stained by their juices. These rich but balanced, tiny berries provide me with a sense of nostalgia. Now every time I buy them, they take me back to when I was little and didn’t have a care in the world.
These days, I find myself drawn to blueberries every time I have exams. It wasn’t until I was standing in the Whole Foods checkout line with six cartons of them that I began questioning why. Is it because of the unmatchable health benefits, or because of the anxiety relief that nostalgia provides me when I eat them? Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Regardless, I am forever thankful, and I will continue to buy out the blueberries at Whole Foods during every exam season until I graduate.
Cover photo courtesy of health line