23 July 2019Why Blueberries Are One of the World's Best Superfoods

How many blueberries a day does a Denali grizzly bear eat?

While visiting Alaska this summer during a Denali National Park tour, we learned that scatologists, scientists who examine scat (or feces), followed the brown grizzly bears for 24 hours (at a healthy distance) and counted the number of blueberries seeds in their feces. What a job! Since the bears defecated 10 times during the day, and there were 20,000 seeds per clump the scientists calculated that the bears ate 200,000 blueberries each day. Later in the forest while finding and picking one cup of small sweet wild blueberries, I tried to imagine how large bear paws are able to pick 200,000 berries in one day.

History

Even though blueberries are native to America, it wasn't until 1916 that two pioneer agriculturists cultivated highbush blueberries and were able to sell their first crop in New Jersey. In the 1990's, scientists began to explore the antioxidant properties of blueberries and then in the 2000's blueberries became an icon of a "super food."

Health Benefits

Why are blueberries often in the news as a "super food" and considered one of the healthiest berries?

Not only do blueberries contain, fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate as many fruits do, they also contain the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. A study in 2007 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined that blueberries had the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) antioxidant values of a variety of fruits. For example, blueberries had an antioxidant value of 2906 while grapefruit had an antioxidant value of 336.

Just like oxidation causes your car to rust, oxidation from too much sun, smoking, pollution, and unhealthy food can decrease your immunity and increase your risk of infection and different types of cancer. As the name suggests, antioxidants are important to prevent the oxidation of cells. They are "anti" or against the damage to cells. Interestingly enough, the pigment called anthocyanin not only gives blueberries their beautiful purple color, but also contributes to the high antioxidant content of blueberries.

How to Increase Blueberries in Your Healthy Eating Strategy

As more research demonstrates the health benefits of blueberries, the consumption of blueberries in the US has increased dramatically. According to the USDA, the consumption of blueberries has increased 411% from 2000 to 2012.

Here are some ways to increase your blueberry consumption:

  • Eat fresh as a snack. Statistically, most blueberries are eaten at home as a breakfast or a snack.
  • Use as a topping for oatmeal, waffles, cereal, pancakes, yogurt and salads.
  • Mix into a smoothie made with Greek yogurt, reduced-fat milk, soaked cashews and vanilla.
  • While baking, add blueberries to muffins, scones and quick breads.

Try baking these Blueberry Pumpkin Muffins!

Blueberry Pumpkin Muffins*

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

3 eggs

15 oz. can of pumpkin puree

1/2 cup of skim milk

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups of white flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cloves

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 cup of blueberries

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and milk. I often use a mix master. Add 1 cup of the flour mixed together with the soda, powder and all of the spices. Mix well. Then, add and mix well with the rest of the flour (whole wheat and white).

Grease or line 24 muffin tins. Put 1/4 cup of the dough in the muffin tin. Sprinkle a few blueberries. Then, add 1/4 cup more of the dough. I sprinkle the blueberries rather than mix them into the dough to create a surprise in the middle and a more appealing color.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Since this recipe makes 24 muffins, freeze some for a quick snack or breakfast on a busy day.

The nutrition information for 1 muffin is:

  • 149 calories
  • 5.7 g total fat (0.6g sat fat, 1.6 g poly, 3.2 g mono)
  • 23 g total carb (1.8 g fiber, 9.9 g sugar)
  • 3 g protein
  • Sodium 145 mg
  • 56% Vit A (Daily Value from food label)

Originally published September 13, 2016
Updated July 23,2019

Martha M. Henze, MPH, MS, RDN

Martha recently completed her Masters of Public Health (MPH) in global epidemiology and aims to help people improve their health on a population basis around the world.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables

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