I am going to go ahead and take a guess that you might like, perhaps even love, blueberries. They personally rank as my favorite berry. Native to North America, blueberries rank as being one of the highest antioxidant foods in our diet.1 Antioxidants are important because they help find and eradicate free radicals in our system that can damage our cells and DNA.1 Their high concentration of antioxidants is due to anthocyanin, a phytonutrient that gives blueberries their blue pigmentation. Ok. Time for a break from all the science talk. You know how when you buy blueberries from the store they are white on the inside when you cut them open? If you haven't noticed- check it out next time. The amazing thing about wild blueberries, is that they are blue throughout the berry. This means you are getting exponentially more anthocyanin content from a wild blueberry than a store-bought cultivated one. A recent study backed up this visual cue when they did an analysis and found wild blueberries had higher total polyphenols content and also antioxidant activity compared with cultivated ones.3
So what does this all mean?
Let's talk brass tacks here because I am not sure if all this talk of anthocyanins has excited you to go and seek your nearest wild blueberry stand.
Improves memory. Anthocyanins have been associated with increased neuronal signaling in brain centers, mediating memory function as well as improved glucose disposal, benefits that would be expected to mitigate neurodegeneration.2
Cardiovascular benefits. In repeated studies of blood composition, blueberry intake (usually in the amount of 1-2 cups per day and over the course of 1-3 months) has been shown to improve blood fat balances, including reduction in total cholesterol, raising of HDL cholesterol, and lowering of triglycerides.1 Consumption of blueberries may improve selected features of metabolic syndrome and related cardiovascular risk factors.4
Regulates blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity.5 Eating two servings a day of blueberries has been shown to have significant benefit in glycemic control, blood lipids and blood pressure.6
You get to spend time in the woods collecting free food. Want to know whats also great for your health and mental well-being? Being in nature with your friends chatting and picking wild blueberries for a few hours.
Other good stuff. Blueberries are a very good source of vitamin K, vitamin C and manganese. Blueberries are also a good source of fiber and copper.1
How to prepare them
I spent about 2 hours and ended up with 3.5 lbs of blueberries. I am not a big fan of desserts, so I decided to dehydrate some of my blueberries to use in a trail mix, and to freeze some for smoothies or use in a later kombucha or shrub batch. Luckily, no matter how you preserve the bounty the antioxidant qualities remain the same.7
1. The George Mateljan Foundation. World's Healthiest Foods. Available at: http://whfoods.org/ Accessed on August 24, 2016.
2. Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, et al. Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults †. J Agric Food Chem Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010;58(7):3996-4000. doi:10.1021/jf9029332.
3. Giovanelli G, Buratti S. Comparison of polyphenolic composition and antioxidant activity of wild Italian blueberries and some cultivated varieties. Food Chemistry. 2009;112(4):903-908. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.06.066.
4. Basu A, Du M, Leyva MJ, et al. Blueberries Decrease Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Obese Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome. Journal of Nutrition. 2010;140(9):1582-1587. doi:10.3945/jn.110.124701.
5. Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 2010;140(10):1764-1768. doi:10.3945/jn.110.125336.
6. Jenkins DJA, Ssrichaikul K, Kendall CWC et al. The relation of low glycaemic index fruit consumption to glycaemic control and risk factors for coronary heart disease in type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2011 February; 54(2): 271-279. 2011.
7. Lohachoompol V, Srzednicki G, Craske J. The Change of Total Anthocyanins in Blueberries and Their Antioxidant Effect After Drying and Freezing. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2004;2004(5):248-252. doi:10.1155/s1110724304406123.