When filling up that grocery cart think color, and lots of it. That's the message scientists are sending as a result of recent research focused on the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their color. With color becoming a marker for good health, Wild Blueberries, Nature's Healthy Blue Food(TM), become a smart choice for consumers looking to eat foods that help protect against aging, heart disease and cancer. In fact, USDA research has demonstrated that the deep blue pigments found in Wild Blueberries may make a significant contribution to our physical health and well being. Blueberries, ranked by the USDA as #1 in antioxidant activity when compared with 40 other commercially available fruits and vegetables, are an important part of a healthy diet.

Daily Dose of Blue

"The power of color is an emerging dietary phenomenon," said John Sauve, Executive Director of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA). "The old saying 'Eat your greens' might need to be changed to 'Eat your blues."

According to Sauve, the potential dietary contribution of the intense blue and red pigments found in fruits like Wild Blueberries has scientists excited. In fact, recent discoveries have attributed antioxidant and anti-aging benefits to anthocyanins and other natural compounds (phytochemicals) found in Wild Blueberries. Anthocyanins (from two Greek words meaning "plant" and "blue") are responsible for the Wild Blueberry's blue color.

"As consumers become more educated about the value of natural antioxidants in their diet and their potential anti-aging benefits, we expect more people will want to get their Daily Dose of Blue(TM) from the best-tasting blueberries -- Wild Blueberries."

Blue Is Hot

According to Susan Davis, MS, RD, nutrition advisor to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and Registered Dietitian, a focus on food color is an emerging health trend. "The new, hot color on the block is blue," said Davis. Recent studies using Wild Blueberries indicate that anthocyanins, the compounds responsible for the Wild Blueberry's blue color, are powerful allies in the fight against aging, heart disease and cancer, noted Davis. "To get your Daily Dose of Blue(TM), just drop a handful of Wild Blueberries into your morning cup of orange juice or make a Wild Blueberry smoothie with one-half cup of berries. You've not only met at least two of the 5-A-Day servings for fruits and vegetables, but you've also boosted the antioxidant activity in your body."

Anti-Aging Properties Explored

A recent study conducted by James Joseph, Ph.D., Chief of the neuroscience laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) on Aging at Tufts University, demonstrated that a diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination, and improved short-term memory in aging rats. This particular USDA study was the first to actually demonstrate a reversal in dysfunctions of behavior, going farther than earlier studies that linked high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables to prevention of function loss only. (Journal of Neuroscience, September 15, 1999)

"From what I've seen from our research, the anthocyanins which give blueberries their color may be very powerful and very influential in giving blueberries their health punch," says Joseph. "Understanding what's responsible for the blueberry's health punch is fascinating to me. While we've long known that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is good for us, we're just now beginning to understand the reasons why. What we've found is that color may be a strong part of the story, and blue is emerging as one of the most interesting colors of all."

Nature's Antioxidant Powerhouse

Studies conducted by Ronald L. Prior, Ph.D, at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, ranked blueberries number one in antioxidant activity when compared with 40 other commercially available fruits and vegetables. (Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 44:701-705; 3426-3431, 1996; 46:2686-2693, 1998)

Antioxidants are natural substances found in fruits and vegetables which neutralize free radicals -- unstable oxygen molecules associated with cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging.

"One-half cup of blueberries delivers as much antioxidant power as five servings of other fruits and vegetables -- such as peas, carrots, apples, squash and broccoli," says Prior. "While variety is still the key to a healthy diet, I'm eating blueberries regularly."

WBANA

Wild Blueberries, which are commercially harvested only in Maine and Eastern Canada, are smaller in size and more extraordinary in taste than their cultivated cousins. Frozen Wild Blueberries can be found year-round in supermarkets across the United States and Eastern Canada for convenient at-home use.

WBANA is an international trade association of growers and processors of Wild Blueberries from Maine and Canada, responsible for the promotion of Wild Blueberries worldwide.