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Berries Earn More Health Honors
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Found to cut cholesterol, blueberries also land in Top 10 antioxidant list

by Randy Hartnell

Summer brought more good news about berries—and wild blueberries in particular. Here’s our summary of two stories that support our decision to offer organic raspberries, organic strawberries, and wild organic blueberries.

Berries dominate top 20 antioxidant list; Wild “blues” top cultivated cousins

In June, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an updated list of the Top 20 food sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants in foods and those produced by the body team up to protect body cells against unstable compounds called free radicals, which are formed during normal metabolism, and by exposure to sunlight or manmade chemicals in food, water and air.

The USDA researchers measured antioxidant levels in more than 100 different types of antioxidant-rich plant foods, and arrived at this “top 20” list:

USDA's Top 20 Antioxidant Foods

1.   Small red beans (dried)

2.   Wild blueberries

3.   Red kidney beans

4.   Pinto beans

5.   Blueberries (cultivated)

6.   Cranberries

7.   Artichokes (cooked)

8.   Blackberries

9.   Prunes

10. Raspberries

11. Strawberries

12. Red Delicious apples

13. Granny Smith apples

14. Pecans

15. Sweet cherries

16. Black plums

17. Russet potatoes (cooked)

18. Black beans (dried)

19. Plums

20. Gala apples

Once perched at the top of the list, blueberries were bested by “small red beans,”—which apparently had never been tested. But blueberries still earned a silver medal for second place.  (Likewise, strawberries had been number 10, but the new data on red beans bumped them to the still-impressive number 11 spot.)  And, as earlier studies suggested, this test showed that wild blueberries offer more antioxidant power than their commercially cultivated counterparts. It’s also good to see that raspberries rank in the top ten percent of the 100 antioxidant-rich foods studied.

Blueberries may match cholesterol-lowering drug

Just two months later, USDA research chemist Agnes Rimando, Ph.D. and colleagues reported that a natural antioxidant found in blueberries (pterostilbene) may lower blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides as effectively as the prescription blood-lipid-lowering drug ciprofibrate, which produces muscle pain and nausea in some people.

Pterostilbene, which is similar to resveratrol, an heart-healthy antioxidant plant compound found in at high levels in grapes, appears effective in the small amounts found in raw blueberries.

  • Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Jun 16;52(12):4026-37.
  • Rimando AM (USDA), Nagmani R (Enzymatic Therapy, Inc.), Feller DR (University of Mississippi). Pterostilbene as a new natural product agonist for the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARa) isoform (AGFD 85). The 228th ACS National Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, August 22-26, 2004.

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