The blueberry, it turns out, is a true powerhouse of nutrition. The Eat 5 to 9 a Day campaign encourages consumers to eat more ``blues and purples.'' The deep, rich color indicates the presence of antioxidants that help reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and even Alzheimer's.
Phytochemical research is one of the hottest areas of research in the nutrition world. New studies show blueberries may actually slow down the aging process by helping to prevent and reverse memory loss. Animal studies conducted at Tufts University show rats fed blueberry extract had improved neural, cognitive and motor function.
To add to the blueberry's considerable cachet, another study on rats by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that blueberries may lower cholesterol, acting as effectively as commercial drugs on the market.
So just what is it that makes blueberries tick?
Scientists have found they have an especially high ORAC number, a measure of their oxygen radical absorbance. Fresh blueberries have an ORAC of 2,400. Blackberries come in second place at 2,030, while other berries - including cranberries, strawberries and raspberries - rate above 1,000, according to last month's Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.