It’s little, it’s blue and it’s time to celebrate!
What’s round and blue and native to North America? The blueberry, of course! And July is high season for fresh blueberries nationwide. That’s why, since 1999, the USDA has officially honored the little blue dynamos with the whole month of July as National Blueberry Month.
Blueberries have deep roots — historically, that is — dating back to an estimated 13,000 years in North America. Long used for food, as well as medicinal purposes, their nutritive properties were well-known for providing sustenance and nourishment, but not until recent years has some of their real star-power been identified through modern research.
An excellent source of vitamin C, as well as high in fiber, blueberries have long been part of a healthy, nutritious diet. But it’s the discovery of powerful plant nutrients called polyphenols that have really given them their red-carpet recognition today. When you look at a blueberry, the antioxidants are looking right back at you. High in anthocyanins — the antioxidant and pigment that gives the blue-to-the-berry — blueberries have been associated with reducing inflammation and countering oxidative stress in the body. Inflammation and oxidation have been flagged as important risk factors and triggers to many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cognitive (brain) decline and certain cancers including colon cancer.
Many studies have shown positive, health-promoting, disease-fighting potential from blueberries. In one very recent study from Oklahoma State University, the researchers found significant improvements in blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol in individuals with metabolic syndrome who consumed blueberries daily for 8 weeks over those who did not. Metabolic syndrome — representing a group of symptoms including high waist circumference, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL (good cholesterol), and high triglycerides — affects an estimated 25-35% of all American adults.
Grown in 38 states, and available fresh from the U.S. from April to November, blueberries are also available year-round frozen, dried, as juice, and in packaged foods. And North American farmers supply more than 90% of the blueberries consumed worldwide. Summertime is a great time to buy them fresh and freeze them to keep the ‘seasonal’ alive in your home well into the winter! And the price is nice this time of year, too.
Source: Basu et al., Journal of Nutrition, 2010.
Wendy Bazilian (www.wendybazilian.com) is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian and freelance writer in San Diego. She is also the Nutrition Advisor at the renowned Golden Door and Co-owner of Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale).
Follow her on Facebook.