Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

June 7, 2014

Small blueberries pack a powerful punch against free radicals

THOMASVILLE — Blueberries are nutritional stars, providing good sources of vitamin C and E, fiber and manganese.  But beyond these nutrients, blueberries real star power may be their antioxidant capability.  Out of 60 fruits and vegetables analyzed, blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals.  These fruits contain significant amounts of anthocyanin, antioxidant compounds that give blue, purple and red colors to fruits and vegetables.

 The benefits of blueberries and their effects on aging, cholesterol reduction, protection against colon cancer and ovarian cancer are a few of the areas being studied.  Although there is a long way to go before conclusive evidence is demonstrated, blueberries look promising for numerous health benefits.  Blueberries were shown to reduce the effects of age related decline in laboratory rats.  The brain appeared to be protected from oxidative stress from components of blueberries, so there is hope that they may reduce the effects of age related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  Laboratory studies found that blueberries may also provide protection against colon cancer.

 Blueberries are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber and also contain tannins, which reduce inflammation in the digestive system.  Blueberries promote urinary tract health in a similar way to cranberries.  They contain the same compounds found in cranberries that help prevent or eliminate urinary tract infections.  The component found in cranberry and blueberry juice reduces the ability of E. coli (the bacteria that are the most common cause of urinary tract infections) to adhere to the lining of the urethra and bladder, therefore reducing the risk of bacterial infection.

 For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened berries.  Store them in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week.  Wait to wash the berries until you are ready to eat them since washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skins from breaking down.  To freeze berries, do not wash, put in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze for 2 hours.  Transfer blueberries to a freezer baggie and keep in the freezer to liven up your cereal, fruit salad, and breakfast smoothie or to mix in your favorite blueberry muffin recipe throughout the year. Don’t forget to wash them right before eating.

 Blueberries may be tiny, but research leads us to believe that their benefits are mighty.  Besides all the possible health benefits, blueberries just taste great!  They are low in calories and packed with flavor and that is reason enough to enjoy them all through the year.  But right now it is blueberry picking time so pack up the kids and head to your favorite blueberry farm to fill up a pail.  Don’t have a favorite place yet?  Give one of these U Pick Them Farms a go this month.  Near Monticello, Fla., try Windy Hill Vineyard or Green Meadows Farm.   In Wacissa, Fla., pick berries at Blueberry Springs and then head to close-by Wacissa Springs for a refreshing swim!  Look them up on the web for location and picking hours.

 Crumpacker is a registered dietitian and owner of Go Nutritious. Visit her at gonutritious.com.

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