Food & Wine

What’s all the fuss about blueberries

What’s all the fuss about blueberries

As South African consumers, along with the world, become increasingly health conscious, driven by a growing national awareness around the link between healthy food and well-being, there has been a noticeable shift in demand towards foods that are known for their health benefits beyond basic nutrition. One such food that is booming in popularity as a result is the tasty, sweet, easy-to-snack-on superfood – blueberries.

This is according to Roger Horak, co-founder and Global CEO of OZblu blueberries, a leading producer of new blueberry varieties in the Southern Hemisphere, who says that a recent independent research survey of over 2000 people revealed that the health benefits of blueberries are one of the primary purchase drivers for the majority of respondents.

“The results from our recent national survey conducted in South Africa reveal that people buy blueberries for their perceived health and nutritional value, along with their taste, the fact that they are convenient to snack on, and because kids like them. This is very much in line with the global trend of superfoods – a group of mostly plant-based foods that are thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health.”

Horak does question, however, how informed these consumers really are about the health and nutritional benefits of blueberries – aside from merely having read somewhere that they fall into the “superfood” category. “When asked if they were aware of the health and nutritional benefits of blueberries, an overwhelming 72% of respondents said they were, however, not all of these individuals were able to expand very much on what these nutritional benefits actually are.”

“After all, stating that blueberries are packed with antioxidants is one thing, while actually understanding what this means in terms of health benefits is somewhat more complex,” Horak adds.

To put this into perspective, Horak explains that the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score of blueberries – which is a lab test that attempts to quantify the “total antioxidant capacity” of a food – is an incredible 9,621. “This makes the blueberry one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world, and it is this broad range of antioxidants, which include vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese, that leads to its numerous health benefits.”

“In understandable terms, these health benefits include the prevention against serious ailments such as high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer. Antioxidants are also known to combat ageing, support digestion and benefit the skin.”

Furthermore, because they contain such a high amount of phenols, particularly gallic acid, blueberries are also known as “neuro-protective agents”, adds Horak. “This means they are even believed to protect the human brain from degeneration, boosting focus and memory.”

Horak concludes that over and above their high antioxidant-content, blueberries are also a favourite guilt-free treat for anybody watching their figure. “Being considerably low in sugar with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) value, yet the new varieties are still sweet and rich in taste, blueberries are the perfect snack for weightwatchers. Whether enjoyed as is, thrown into a delicious smoothie, or used as a topping on a bowl of healthy porridge, this versatile superfood lives up to its hype and is enjoyed by people of all ages.”

 

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