Blueberries Burst with Health Benefits

January 19, 2012

The middle of winter seems like a time when blueberries are scarce, but head to your freezer for these tasty berries and find out the benefits here

With the arrival of a new year, and the inevitable resolutions to eat healthier that come with it, SupermarketGuru wanted to share with you a column from our Food Nutrition & Science newsletter featuring Ellie Krieger, RD, and Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS about the “super food” benefits of blueberries.

Krieger, the nationally acclaimed registered dietitian and host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite, notes that, at only 42 calories per 1/2 cup serving, blueberries are ideal as a smart snack option in lieu of more fattening snacks. “I advise people to eat the rainbow,” she says. “One of the things that makes food so appealing and enticing is also what makes it good for you: color. Blueberries are chock full of anthocyanins which act as powerful antioxidants.”

Bowden, aka "The Rogue Nutritionist", and a well-known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health, cites the abundance of antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and other essential nutrients found in blueberries. “There are no bad fruits; of course, some are just absolute superstars and blueberries are one of them,” he says. “That’s why blueberries are one food I eat every single day – without exception.”

Compound in Blueberries Found to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Anthocyanins are phyto-nutrients found in blueberries and other fruits and vegetables with red, blue and purple pigments. But according to researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a phyto-nutrient called pterostilebene is unique to blueberries and may be especially helpful in lowering the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

"We are excited to learn that blueberries, which are already known to be rich in healthy compounds, may also be a potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease, which are leading killers in the U.S.," said Dr. Agnes Rimando, the lead researcher in the study. An additional study also conducted by Dr. Rimando found that pterostilebene, similar to resveratrol, the antioxidant compound in grapes and wine, was more effective in lowering LDL cholesterol than a leading medication prescribed for this purpose.

Little Blueberries May Lead to Littler Bellies
WebMD recently published a report that concluded that blueberries are one way to help reduce belly fat. The study found that rats that ate a diet rich in blueberries lost abdominal fat, a type of fat that correlates to heart disease and diabetes. Blueberries in the diet also correlates to lower cholesterol and improved glucose control, even in diets that weren’t otherwise heart-healthy, according to the site's summary.

"Some measurements were changed by blueberries even if the rats were on a high-fat diet," researcher E. Mitchell Seymour, MS, of the University of Michigan's Cardio Protection Research Laboratory, is quoted as saying in a news release.

In addition, animals fed a low-fat diet with blueberries also lost body weight and fat compared to those on the high-fat diet. Further study is needed to verify all of these findings in humans.

Legendary Goodness

Modern science is just beginning to discover what ancient cultures have long known. The blueberry is an indigenous North American species with deep roots in our history. Native Americans gave blueberries to the new settlers, helping them make it through their first winter. Blueberries also have a place in the annals of folk medicine. Their roots were brewed into a tea believed to help relax women during childbirth, and blueberry syrup was thought to be a cure for coughs. Another health legend is the association between bilberries, a European cousin of blueberries, and good eyesight.

Fruits from Chile

The Atacama Desert to the north; the Pacific Ocean to the west; the Andes Mountains to the east and the Patagonia ice fields to the south all protect Chile’s lush valleys and growing areas. These natural barriers, combined with Chile’s special climate, soil and water, make Chile a natural and reliable provider of high-quality fresh blueberries.

During the summer months, U.S. farmers grow fresh blueberries in abundance. But when the season ends in the northern hemisphere, it’s just getting underway in Chile, ensuring easy availability through the North American winter. Chile is one of the world’s largest producers of fresh blueberries, and among its most technologically advanced. Strict safety standards and efficient transportation ensure that the berries available in wintertime are every bit as fresh, ripe and nutritious as those you’ll find at other times of the year.