By Dr. Steven Pratt
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.
Now a word about the geometry of blueberries!
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! 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 of wild vs. cultivated blueberries!
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.