Popularly known as a rich source of antioxidants, blueberries are one of the most nutritionally beneficial fruits available. In fact, they have one of the highest antioxidant capacities, and organically grown blueberries have the maximum antioxidant capacity.
Most Blueberries are native to North America, but some varieties are native to Europe and Asia and the berries are enjoyed around the world both raw and baked into desserts. The U.S. supplies more than half of the blueberries consumed worldwide.
The range of flavors with blueberries is a bit more diverse than with other berries. Depending on ripeness, hydration and growth location with regards to sunlight, blueberries can taste mildly sweet and juicy, or tart and tangy. They also range in size, and can be found as small as a pea or as large as a marble. Blueberries can be a soft, dusky blue in color, or more maroon and even purple-black. The berries have a protective coat of a white-gray ‘bloom’, which is completely safe and edible.
In addition to antioxidants, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, which are the compounds that cause the blue, red and purple colors in vegetables and fruits. The berries have important hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, and flavonols, and are an excellent source of VItamins C and K, manganese, fiber and copper. The most important health benefits of blueberries are:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides
- Improves memory and cognitive function
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Supports healthy blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of certain cancers (breast, colon, esophageal and small intestine)
- Protects eye retina from oxidative stress and sun damage