Wild vs. Cultivated Blueberries

Tags: Antioxidants, Blueberries, Free Radicals, Phytonutrients

Blueberries are native to North America. Long recognized as nutritional powerhouses, blueberries were an important part of the American Indians’ diet.

Blueberries work their magic primarily because of their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients — particularly one type in the flavanoid family called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin pigments give blueberries their intense blue-purple color. The darker the berry, the higher the anthocyanin content. Blueberries have at least five different anthocyanins. The anthocyanins are concentrated in the skin of the berries because, as with many other fruits and vegetables, the plant skin protects the fruit from the sun and other environmental assaults by concentrating antioxidants in this key location.

As we know, free radicals are the culprits that damage cell membranes and DNA and ultimately cause many of the degenerative diseases that plague us as we age. The anthocyanins in the blueberry’s skin are key players in neutralizing free-radical damage that can lead to a multitude of ailments in our cells and tissue.

Wild vs. Cultivated Blueberries:
Which Is Better for You?

Though there are some subtle nutritional differences between the wild and cultivated blueberry, the real difference has to do with their relative sizes. Wild blueberries are much smaller than their big, juicy cultivated cousins; maybe less than half the size. So, though perhaps 80 or 90 cultivated blueberries may fit in one cup, that same size cup will hold more than 150 wild blueberries — and that means the wild blueberries benefits are, technically, greater.

Calculating the surface area of those blueberries (remember, most of the SuperNutrients are in the skin) we find that a cup of wild blueberries has almost twice the blueberry skin as the cup of cultivated blueberries. Twice the skin, twice the antioxidant power in a cup.

The blueberry contains more powerful disease-fighting antioxidants that any other fruit or vegetable. As one positive report after another has come out on blueberries, the media have taken to calling them “brain berries” and “youth berries,” and they certainly deserve the good press; just one serving of blueberries provides as many antioxidants as five servings of carrots, apples, broccoli or squash. In fact, 2/3 cup of blueberries gives you the same antioxidant protection as 1,733 IU of vitamin E and more protection that 1,200 milligrams of vitamin C.

Bottom line: Go for wild if you can find them, but if you can’t, the cultivated are still a great addition to any diet.

  • Well-Manicured Man

    But what about when they are dried? They both shrink in size. Most commercially sold packaged dried blueberries are the cultivated type. I’ve never heard this explanation before, that fresh wild blueberries contain more phytochemicals because they are smaller and fill up a serving size more. Other websites say it’s because they are darker and contain more pigment than cultivated. Since all that’s available in stores in my area for dried blueberries are cultivated (Walmart’s Great Value brand and Stoneridge Orchards), I have no choice but to eat cultivated dried blueberries. Not going to fill up on water-filled fresh fruit.

  • Thomas Orchard

    What about taste? Is there a winner and which one would you use if you were in a baking contest?

    • Emmanuel Abreu

      Typically food is cultivated for size, with little regard for flavor. The smaller, darker berries are going to be sweeter. If you have access to wild blueberries, that’s the way to go

  • Grapester

    The blueberries native to the Southeast are smaller, so Southern Rabbiteye varieties would have a similar benefit is the author’s analysis us true. ….and you guys know the ‘Wild’ blueberries from Maine and Eastern Canada are not foraged but harvested from managed fields.