By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N.
Director of Community Education
The old adage “Good things come in small packages” certainly holds true when it comes to healthy foods. If you had to pick ONE food that packs the best wallop nutritionally, what would it be? Spinach, perhaps? Popeye would certainly vote for that one! How about salmon, touted for its high marks in omega fatty acids? Good pick but not quite good enough.
Arguably the food that might be said to top the list could well be the humble little blueberry. Fresh or frozen, blueberries are nutrition giants cleverly disguised. Here are our TOP TEN REASONS TO POP A PECK OF BLUEBERRIES (INTO YOUR MOUTH):
#10: Blueberries are a sweet, natural treat low in calories. One cup of blueberries has only about 81 calories, so if you’re looking to lose weight blueberries are a harmless, healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
#9: Move over cranberries! Researchers at Rutgers University have found a substance in blueberries that improves urinary tract health and reduces chance of urinary tract infection.
#8: European studies have shown a relationship between bilberries (a cousin of blueberries) and improved eyesight. This is thought to be due to a pigment called anthocyanin, which is also what makes blueberries… blue! This compound may also prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
#7: Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, and the benefits of a high fiber diet have been well documented over the years.
#6: Dried blueberries are used in Sweden to treat diarrhea in childhood. It is believed that anthocyanosides, a substance found in blueberries, has an antibacterial effect, particularly upon the bacteria E-coli.
#5: The same anthocyanosides mentioned above also have a beneficial effect on blood vessels and the treatment of varicose veins.
#4: The antioxidants in blueberries may prevent the buildup of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol in blood vessels, thus reducing risk of heart disease and stroke.
#3: Blueberries contain resveratrol, a potential anticancer agent, and also contain substances that decrease the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells.
#2: The tiny blueberry is #1 in antioxidant activity, surpassing 40 other fruits and vegetables for the honor. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are nasty particles that damage cells in numerous ways such as noted in #4.
And the NUMBER ONE reason to eat more blueberries: if you are looking for a fruity Fountain of Youth look no further than the blueberry! The antioxidants in blueberries also boast anti-aging properties and ongoing studies are finding that blueberries improve memory, concentration and balance.
Dr. Steven Pratt, coauthor of Superfoods: Fourteen Foods that Will Change your Life, maintains, “If you had to pick one food to ensure your lowest rate of dementia as you get older, blueberries are the thing — fresh or frozen it does not matter.”
While July is officially Blueberry Month, blueberries are grown in 30 states, available fresh eight months of the year and always available frozen. Why not make every month Blueberry Month?
References: suffolkblues.co.uk/health; annecollins.com/diet_nurtition/blueberries; merrillwildblueberries.com/html/health.htm; ushbc.org/health