(Health Secrets) Looking for antioxidants? Go no further than the nearest bowl of blueberries. These tiny low calorie fruits are anti-aging superstars packed with flavor and sweetness. They have single-handedly brought many people back from disease and kept them looking and feeling young. There is just one thing you need to remember. Blueberries lose their power when eaten with milk.
Blueberries bind with milk protein
Phenols are a group of active compounds in plants that provide many of their antioxidant health benefits. Anthocyanadins are the phenols in blueberries that give them their distinctive bluish purple color and much of their magic, too. A recent study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine investigated whether the antioxidant properties of blueberries were reduced because of their affinity for milk protein. Researchers assessed the bioavailability of phenols after blueberries were eaten with and without milk protein in a large group of sujects.
They found when blueberries were eaten with water, the usual high antioxidant level was seen in plasma samples. However when blueberries were eaten with milk protein, there was no increase in plasma antioxidant activity. In fact, there was a reduction in the peak plasma concentrations of two powerful antioxidants, caffeic and ferulic acids
Why is this important? Ferulic acid keeps cell walls strong and protects the nervous system. It has a normalizing effect on blood pressure. Caffeic acid is a powerful protector of neurons. Other research has shown caffeic acid has the potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Don’t miss out on these positive effects from blueberries
It has been documented that eating blueberries has a positive influence on cognition and learning, and this effect may come from their ferulic and caffeic acids. A study reported in the journal Nutrition and Neuroscience looked at cognitive impairment in age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, as being due to long-term inflammation. They investigated whether phenols in blueberries could reduce the damaging effects of induced inflammation.
For a two week period, rats were fed a diet that included a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), or a 2 percent blueberry diet. They were then examined, and total RNA from the hippocampus was extracted to analyze the expression of inflammation-related genes. The scientists found the blueberry diet was able to improve cognitive performance to a much greater degree than the NSAID diet. Blueberry eaters showed a reduction in several factors influencing the inflammatory response. They concluded that blueberry phenols can lessen learning impairments resulting from neurotoxins and exert anti-inflammatory actions, perhaps by alteration of gene expression.
Blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging animals, according to results from another study. The aging animals became mentally equivalent to animals much younger after consuming blueberries.
But according to the results of the study involving blueberries eaten with milk, all of these benefits are not accessible when you combine any sort of milk protein with your blueberries.
Blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses
Antioxidants counteract the free radicals produced during metabolic processes that cause people to show the classic signs of aging. Think of it like metal left out in the weather. It soon starts to rust and break down unless it is protected. Antioxidants offer that kind of protection from oxidation in the body. We naturally produce a good amount of antioxidants when we are young, but as we begin to age, production of them slows. We then need to get more of them from food and supplements if we want to retain youthfulness.
Researchers at Tufts University recently analyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capabilities. Blueberries were tops among all that were studied, ranking highest in the capacity to destroy free radicals. The antioxidants in blueberries neutralize free radical damage to the collagen matrix of cells and tissues that leads to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcer, heart disease and cancer.
The pigments that give blueberries their color also improve the structure of veins and the vascular system. They enhance the effects of Vitamin C and inhibit destruction of the collagen matrix. Maintaining a stable collagen matrix is essential for the health of bones,, tendons, cartilage and connective tissue. The collagen matrix is what keeps skin from wrinkling and sagging.
Eating three or more servings of fruit per day including blueberries lowers risk of age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss in older adults. Blueberries are loaded with eye healthy and vision preserving carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and flavonoids like rutin, resveratrol, and quercetin, and these antioxidants may be affected in the same way as the ferulic and caffeic acids studied when blueberries are eaten with milk. Blueberries also contain a wealth of minerals needed for vision and overall health, like selenium and zinc.
Blueberries are high in the soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to normalize cholesterol. They provide greater cardio-protective antioxidant capability than red wine.
Blueberries’ cancer fighting properties are legenday
Ellagitannin is probably the most highly prized compound in blueberries because of its ability to block metabolic pathways that can lead to the initiation and promotion of cancer. A study reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that blueberries inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and induce programmed cell death. Blueberries contain kaempherol, a compound shown in the Women’s Health Study to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent in women whose diets provided the greatest amounts. Blueberries also contain pterostilbene, another powerful cancer fighting compound. These compounds too may be affected by eating blueberries with milk.
Blueberries are terrific anti-depressants and mood elevators too.
How to choose and use blueberries
For many people the price tag for fresh organic blueberries is prohibitive. Some of this cost can be minimized by buying wild blueberries, which do not have pesticides used on them but do receive herbicide during the growing process. Frozen blueberries provide all the antioxidant potential as well as the other nutrients found in fresh ones. If you like juice with your blueberries, frozen is the way to go. Frozen blueberries can be pureed and fed to babies.
As with all fruits, the riper the blueberries, the higher the antioxidant content.
Organic dried blueberries are also a good choice, especially for snacking, since the sweetness is accentuated by the drying process. The antioxidant potential of dried blueberries can be as much as four times greater than that of fresh.
Heat reduces the antioxidant potential of blueberries, making canned or other processed berries a poor choice. Blueberries in baby food jars will have lost much of their nutritional value.
As for blueberries and milk protein, the researchers used whole milk in their study. But it is easy to assume that all milk protein would cause the antioxidants in blueberries to become unavailable to the body. This would include yogurt, ice cream and whey protein. To avoid this, eat blueberries an hour before or two hours after consuming milk products. These findings may also apply to other fruits and vegetables containing phenols.
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Photo by La Grande Farmers’ Market