Another vote for blueberries as a superfood was cast this week by investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where dieticians say that as little as one cup of the berries every day can help prevent cell damage linked to cancer.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants and flavonoids that help prevent cell damage. Antioxidants work by stabilizing free radicals, which are atoms that contain an odd number of electrons and are highly reactive, causing cellular damage that is a factor in cancer development.
“Studies suggest that antioxidants may help prevent the free-radical damage associated with cancer,” says Laura Newton M.A.Ed., R.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the UAB, a licensed dietician who often works with cancer patients.
Blueberries also are rich in vitamin C, which helps the immune system and can help the body to absorb iron. “Vitamin C also helps to keep blood vessels firm, offering protection from bruising,” Newton says.
Blueberry juice and other products may be nutritious but often contain less fiber than the whole fruit, and added sugar or corn syrup may decrease their nutritional value. Consuming fresh, raw blueberries provides the most benefits; the average serving size of raw blueberries is one cup, which contains about 80 calories.
It’s hard to believe but not that many years ago nutrition experts were telling people to save their calories and skip the blueberries because they have no nutritional value.
It is now well understood that blueberries are a treasure trove of phytonutrients, especially anthocyanins which are the antioxidant compounds found in blue, purple and red fruits and vegetables.
In addition, blueberries are a very good source of vitamin C and both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Blueberries are a very good source of manganese, an essential trace mineral considered both a brain and a nerve food. Manganese is essential for the absorption of carbohydrates and protein, formation of healthy red blood cells and proper pituitary gland function. Manganese deficiency can result in the failure of wounds to heal, irregular menstrual cycles and a feeling of apathy or fatigue.
Uniquely American, blueberries are native to North America and are rarely found in Europe. They grow naturally in the woods and mountainous regions of the United States and Canada. Blueberry season is now in full swing, and it’s a great idea to stock up and freeze a supply for the winter. To freeze blueberries, spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Freeze briefly and then transfer to an airtight bag or container.