Blueberries have been present for centuries. They were gathered by Native Americans from bogs and forests. Wild blueberries are an important part of the diet of Native North American Wildlife, are often food of bears and many species of birds. Before the arrival of the white man in America, cranberries were consumed by the natives, this was observed by two American explorers, Lewis and Clark.
The blueberry became domesticated only in the 20th century. One of the first steps was to transplant wild blueberries to the fields for farming, and the first experiments were carried out by the Smithsonian institute in 1830.
There are three types of blueberries: highbush, lowbush and hybrid half-high. The most commonly planted blueberry is the highbush. Most blueberry breeding has focused on this species, so there are many varieties that range widely in cold hardiness and fruit season, size, and flavor.
The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish. The fruit is a berry 5–16 millimeters (0.20–0.63 in) in diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally dark purple when ripe.
They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season: fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude, so the peak of the crop can vary from May to August depending upon these conditions.
Most blueberries grown for fruit are also handsome plants suitable for hedges or shrub borders. Dark green or blue-green leaves to 3 in. long change to red, orange, or yellow combinations in autumn. Spring flowers are small, white or pinkish, urn shaped and the summer fruit is very decorative.
Blueberries are packed with vitamin C. In just one serving, you can get 14 mg of Vitamin C – almost 25 percent of your daily requirement. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries. It also promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system.
Blueberries are dynamos of dietary fiber. Research has shown that most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets. Eating foods high in fiber will help keep you regular, your heart healthy and your cholesterol in check. A handful of blueberries can help you meet your daily fiber requirement.
Blueberries are an excellent source of manganese. Manganese plays an important role in bone development and in converting the proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food into to energy.
Blueberries are leaders in antioxidant activity. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Substances in blueberries called polyphenols, specifically the anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue hue, are the major contributors to antioxidant antioxidant activity.
Below are reasons to consume blueberries daily
- Blood sugar – Blueberries have a favorable impact on blood sugar, even for diabetics. Those who consumed at least three servings of blueberries a day saw significant improvement in their regulation of blood sugar.
- Digestion – Blueberries offer antioxidant protection of the digestive tract by combating free radicals, some of which can cause cancer. This superfood plays a significant role in combating colon cancer.
- Eye protection – Blueberries have been proven to protect the retina from unwanted sunlight and oxygen damage.
- Heart – Consuming blueberries significantly lowers your risk of developing heart disease by regulating and relaxing arterial elasticity in the vascular wall. They also improve blood flow.
- Improving memory/motor function – One study found that older adults (average age 76) fed blueberries daily for 12 weeks (2-2.5 cups per day) performed better on two different cognitive function tests, which included memory, than those who hadn’t consumed the superfood.
- Nervous system – Blueberries contain a range of different antioxidants, all of which are beneficial to the human body. This range of nutrients provides nerve cells with protection from oxygen damage. Nerve cells are persistently at risk for oxygen damage, thus requiring continuous protection.
- Protection from toxic heavy metals – Romanian chemists from the University of Bucharest discovered that blueberries protect against heavy metals. Blueberry extract created a force field that acted as a barrier against cadmium, protecting cells from toxic heavy metal damage.
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease/dementia – Anthocyanin improves memory and mental fluidity, and can help protect against brain cell loss. Blueberries also stimulate nerve cell growth and facilitate better communication between nerve cell processes, in turn slowing the aging process.
Blueberries are one of our body’s greatest allies. Their ability to eliminate free radicals protects us from every day exposure to various forms of pollution, including pesticides, sun exposure and heavy metals.
HOW TO BUY
Blueberries are ripe when they are purchased. They do not continue to ripen after harvest.
Avoid buying watery, moldy, or soft blueberries. The fruit is past its prime if the containers are stained or leaking.
Store blueberries in the refrigerator; keep them unwashed, as they deteriorate quickly when wet. Fresh picked blueberries should last up to two weeks.
Blueberries perish quickly, so use them as soon as possible. They are also a great fruit to freeze.