Blueberries are filled to the brim with beneficial phyto-chemicals for good health and may help to prevent and slow the progression of serious illnesses. The popularity of these berries is constantly on the rise in Europe. Michigan in the USA has been a world leader in production volumes of blueberries for many decades. It is possible to grow your own at home; the plants require an acidic soil e.g . Wexford, Carlow and Waterford, but dislikes high lime soils.
Nutritional Properties and Antioxidant Composition.
Many people struggle to consume the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables (in combination) each day for optimal health. These berries are one of the most convenient of fruits that are literally ready to eat – no peeling and no waste! Blueberries are low in calories and an excellent source of fibre, vitamins A and C, potassium and folate. Moreover, blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant phytonutrients. Blueberries’ diverse range of plant compounds e.g. anthocyanins, quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and chlorogenic acid, contributes to their overall antioxidant power. “Blueberries also have a rich diversity of different anthocyanin species—like 26 different anthocyanins—whereas some other berries may feature only two or three different anthocyanin species,” says Mary Ann Lila, PhD, MS and David H. Murdock distinguished professor at North Carolina State University, who has spent 18 years studying this particular type of fruit.
Because of the wide variety of bioactive compounds present in blueberries, studies conducted over the past decade have associated their consumption with preventing and slowing disease progression. The protective effects of blueberry consumption have been recognized in certain cancers; cardiovascular diseases, such as blocked arteries and stroke and neuro-degenerative diseases. The protective effects have been attributed to the phytochemicals in the berries such as flavonoidsexample anthocyanins). Researchers suggest that the bioactive constituents in blueberries exert their effects by counteracting oxidative stress (damage to cells), decreasing inflammatory processes in the body and influencing genes which trigger health issues.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death and disability globally. The anthocyanins compounds in blueberries and strawberries have been associated with a lower risk of heart attachk in young and middle-aged women. A study published in 2013 followed 93,600 women aged 25 to 42 for 18 years. The women were healthy at baseline, but in the 18-year study period researchers observed 405 cases of heart attacks. However, the women who consumed more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week experienced significant protective effects against myocardial infarction.
The mechanisms involved includes inhibition of cancer cell division, increased cancer cell death and prevention of inflammatory molecules in the body. Pterostilbene isolated from blueberries is especially beneficial for its ability to suppress breast cancer stem cell generation, prevents prostate cancer growth and stomach cancer growth.
In 2010, a small study investigating the effects of daily wild blueberry juice consumption in nine older adults with memory changes was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. After the 12-week intervention, researchers noted improvements learning ability and word list recall among participants. Numerous other studies involving laboratory rats showed benefits to memory, however further human studies are required.
Eat your Blues
The natural plant chemical and antioxidants can help promote heart and brain health, stabilise blood sugar levels and prevent or retard serious health conditions. In practice, aim to include 2-3 handfulls of fresh or frozen blueberries into your weekly diet; as a snack, add to breakfast cereal, home baking or a veggie smoothie for sustained release energy and a burst of good health.