by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News
Blueberries were considered a rare delicacy served with cream or cereal for special breakfasts several decades ago. They didn’t achieve super-food status until the ORAC system of measuring antioxidant activity was created by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a couple of decades ago.
ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a lab measurement of the ability of a food or any other substance to quench oxygen free radicals. Even normal metabolic functions create free radicals, which are unstable atoms or molecules that can strip electrons from other molecules, causing chain reactions of oxidative damage in blood and tissue.
Oxygen metabolism is considered respiration, which if incomplete or partial results in electron robbing free radicals. Eventual cumulative oxidative damage, often compared to rust as an example, creates the type of chronic inflammation that’s responsible for many diseases and early aging.
Oxidation is at least partially responsible for lower pH value, or acidity, that leads to a biological inner terrain that is ideal for manifesting “infectious” disease as well. Mental or emotional stress are other factors that contribute to excess oxidation as well.
As of 2010, the USDA stopped publishing ORAC values for foods because ORAC evaluations are in vitro (test tube/petri dish) and not measured in vivo, (animals or humans). The USDA logic was that folks should not determine what foods were better or worse as antioxidants since there could be other variables that enhance or impede antioxidant activity. (Source)
If only the USDA were this scrupulous with GMO agriculture and industrial farming in general. Evidently, they were not impressed by this study or any of the other in vivo ORAC/antioxidant tests listed at the bottom of this same abstract.
The exact ORAC numbers may not reflect the same antioxidant capacity after digesting for everyone, of course. But these numbers should serve as a guide. There have also been some in vitro digestion models, that replicate the human digestive process enough to also confirm that high ORAC foods do contribute to greater antioxidant activity in vivo. (Source)
All we need to know is that higher ORAC values, as well as other attributes of colorful anthocyanin-rich blueberries, are proving more healthy with each test that food scientists can dream up.
Wild Blueberries versus Cultivated Blueberries
The Northeastern American Indians used wild blueberries as food and medicine. They showed early Massachusetts European colonists the bushes containing them. Over time, agriculturists hybridized blueberries naturally to produce a larger, plumper, and sweeter, version of wild blueberries.
Wild blueberries are smaller, darker, and not as sweet as cultivated blueberries. But guess what, they are demonstrably healthier in ways that are attracting food researchers more and more. You won’t be able to get them fresh because wild blueberries grow in remote chilly climates, the logistics prohibit their worldly travels unless they are frozen.
That’s not so bad, though. It’s been discovered that some fruits do not lose many nutritional values upon freezing as long as they are frozen while fresh. Besides, wild blueberries have twice the ORAC value, 9,621 of conventional blueberries, 4,669 according to superfoodly.com.
With fresh commercially grown blueberries, there is that seasonal factor making it difficult to purchase them at different times of the year. So the frozen blueberries offer more purchase time at lower costs.
And you’re already at the ORAC pinnacle with wild blueberries. You won’t see the USDA organic seal on frozen wild blueberry packages because if they’re wild they don’t have to be organic. Often labels will say no pesticides used. Furthermore, a recent test comparing fresh to frozen cultivated blueberries discovered their ORAC rating was even higher among frozen blueberries. (Source)
Blueberries are Brain Food
There’s even more to wild blueberries than their color, size, and ORAC values, according to online nutritional expert, chiropractor, and naturopathic doctor Josh Axe:
Because they contain such a high amount of phenols, particularly gallic acid, blueberries are known as “neuroprotective agents.” According to researchers from Iran, this means that they can literally protect our brains from degeneration, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress. Consuming just one cup daily provides the following: (Source)
Vitamin K (36 percent DV)
Vitamin C (25 percent DV)
Manganese (25 percent DV)
Fiber (17 percent DV)
Also, researchers from the University of Maine, the state where perhaps most of America’s wild blueberries originate, discovered that wild blueberries have prebiotic potential, which promotes the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the colon and promotes digestive and health benefits. You may have read or heard how the gut is the second brain in more ways than previously considered. (Sources)
Steven Pratt, M.D., author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, calls blueberries “brain berries.” He cites research that demonstrates blueberries protect the brain from oxidative stress and thus the effects of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
In one study, aging rats were fed blueberries and then given memory tests. The older rats that were fed blueberries performed as well as younger rats that were not fed blueberries. The phytochemical anthocyanin improves memory and mental fluidity.
As mentioned, anthocyanins are powerful high antioxidant flavonoids that give blueberries their color. Anthocyanins are readily absorbed into the bloodstream and easily cross the blood-brain barrier. There they penetrate a region of the brain known as the striatum, a hub of memory and motor function. The striatum is of special concern to those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.
A diet rich in blueberries has demonstrated protection against brain cell loss, memory deficits, learning disability, and loss of motor coordination. Blueberries also stimulate the growth of new nerve cells and facilitate better communication between nerve cells via a process known as transduction.
If you’re not impressed with the wild blueberry information and prefer cultivated blueberry tastes, make sure those are labeled organic. These tasty berries do rank on the high side of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) pesticide residues, just outside their “Dirty Dozen” at 17th. Wild blueberries are picked from wild fields and are not sprayed.
Regardless of your blueberry choices, eat them as plain as possible. Perfect for snacking. Adding milk or cream has proven nutritionally detrimental, blocking absorption of blueberry antioxidants. And of course, hold the sugar. Adding a little healthy whole pure maple syrup will sweeten the taste and may even boost the nutritional value. (Source)