Blueberries help protect the brain – in research studies on animals, blueberries were shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress. The high antioxidant level in blueberries may reduce the effects of age-related brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. For all ages, studies have shown that frequently incorporating blueberries into your diet can significantly improve your learning capacity, memory and motor skills – a true anti-aging fruit to include in your daily diet. In fact, study results show that people who consume just one cup of blueberries a day have performed 5–6% better on motor skills tests than the control group.

Now, the truth is, I’m getting older – oh, you are too! So, this remains an interesting topic for me. Plus, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at what I now consider a very young age – in her 70’s. She was a vibrant woman with an amazing array of talents. She has left a legacy of beautiful intricate quilts, some of which were commissioned by the Virginia Historical Society. So you see that I have a particular interest in keeping my brain healthy – and keeping your brain healthy.
Anthocyanin is what is proposed to be responsible for this neuron protection (see chart below). This particular flavonoid gives blueberries their color and is believed to be the key component of the blueberry’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Plants rich in anthocyanins are from the Vaccinium species, and as well as the blueberry, include cranberry, black raspberry, red raspberry and blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, eggplant peel (cook it with the peel in place), black rice, concord grapes, and red cabbage. Which is where the “eat the rainbow” theme comes from. Blueberries and the other vegetables and fruits just mentioned will test high in their ability to decrease the amount of free radicals in your body. This is measured by the ORAC scale. Take a look at the chart below and see that although blueberries are somewhat down the scale, they are more easily available, usable and more reasonable in price. Someone please tell me where to get purple corn – I live in Nebraska for heaven’s sakes, why haven’t I seen purple corn? Chokeberry Jelly is Warren’s favorite, but this is processed to the point that any nutritional value is greatly reduced. Grapes in this part of the world are, in my opinion, fairly expensive and contain a high sugar content. From what I’ve been able to find there is 15.48 grams of sugar per 100 grams of fruit. We’ve been growing (okay ignoring) black raspberries in our back yard for almost 10 years now and they’ve produced a paltry amount of berries. They usually end up as bird food, but I think if I tried, I could probably get some pesticide-free, organically grown berries out of the vines that come up every year. But, my point is, blueberries are easier to come by. Please note, however, that black raspberries have been shown in studies to be very cancer preventative and inhibit promotion and progression of tumor cells. Food (pun, I guess) for another blog.

Food source – Amt of Anthocyanin (per 100 grams of fruit)

Purple Corn 1,642 mg
Chokeberry 1,480 mg
Red grape 888 mg
Eggplant skin 750 mg
Black raspberry 589 mg
Blueberry 558 mg
Red Raspberry 365 mg
Cherry 350-400 mg
Acai 320 mg

Free radicals: The term free radicals is no longer a mysterious sounding term to us. You can’t pick up a magazine, read a newspaper or check out your email without coming face-to-face with this fact of life. We all have free radicals and they are caused by normal metabolism. The question and issue is – can my body deal with the number of free radicals I have? The more inflammation, the more free radicals. We all do things to increase the inflammation in our bodies that includes regular wear and tear, degenerative pervasive abuse on bones and muscles, poor diet, as well as constant exposure to toxins from our food and environment. These free radicals, which can damage cell membranes and DNA through a process known as oxidative stress, are blamed for many of the dysfunctions and diseases associated with aging. I, personally, am not ready to get old!

We found a very good resource from the US Highbush Blueberry Council that goes into a lot of detail about the many benefits of including blueberries into your diet. In fact, they tell us that, “Using a test called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), researchers have shown that a serving of fresh blueberries provides more antioxidant activity than many other fresh fruits and vegetables.” This is not new information, but I believe it is something worth repeating. And new research continues to prove this as true.

Fortunately for us, blueberries taste good and can be used in so many different ways. If you do a search on the internet for blueberry recipes you will find no less than 2,600,000 recipes! We know that fresh is best, organic is your only choice and raw is preferred for health benefits. How do we eat blueberries in the Wooledge household? Okay – Warren and our grandchildren love them as pancake topping syrup and I love them in non-fat, plain yogurt sweetened with stevia. Okay, I do like to add just a little of whipped cream (just a squirt – I promise!). We buy them fresh when in season and frozen the rest of the year. The price is not outrageous and of all the high-antioxidant fruits I can think of, the most available.

How do you use blueberries? Do you use organic? Share your recipes and ideas with us – we’d love to hear.