Health and Healing Fact Sheets

Blueberries


Blueberry Classification

All blueberries belong to the genus Vaccinium. The family includes the Highbush (V. corymborsum and V. ashei) and the Native American "wild" low bush (V. augustifolium). All blueberries originated from the wilds. Highbush blueberries represent 57% of total North American blueberry production.
Source: US Highbush Blueberry Council

 

Oregon Highbush Cultivars

Cultivar
Fresh Season
Berry Description
 
Flavor
Earliblue Late June - Early July Medium-large, light blue, firm   Good, sweet, aromatic
Bluetta Late June - Early July Medium, light blue, firm   Fair to good
Duke First three weeks of July Medium, light blue, firm   Fair, more aromatic after storage
Spartan Early - Mid-late July Very large, light blue, firm   Excellent
Patriot Early - Mid-late July Very large, slightly flat, medium blue, firm   Excellent
Collins Early - Mid-late July Large, light blue, firm   Excellent
Northsky Early - Mid-late July Medium, light blue   Good
Bluejay Early - Mid-late July Medium-large, light blue, firm   Excellent
Northblue Mid July - Early August Large, dark blue, firm   Good
Northcountry Mid July - Early August Medium, very light blue   Sweet, mild "wild" flavor
Northland Mid July - Early August Medium, medium blue, moderately firm   Good, sweet
Blueray Mid July - Early August Large-very large, light blue, firm   Excellent, aromatic
Ivanhoe Mid July - Early August Large, light blue, firm   Good, tart, aromatic
Olympia Mid July - Early August Medium-large, medium blue, thin skin   Very good
Bluecrop Mid July - Early August Very large, light blue, firm   Very good, slightly aromatic
Berkely Mid July - Mid August Large-very large, light blue, firm   Fair, mild, less acid than most cultivars, slightly aromatic
Pemberton Mid-late July - Mid August Medium-large, dark blue, firm   Fair, slightly aromatic
Herbert Mid-late July - Mid August Large-very large, medium blue, medium firmness   Very good, aromatic
Coville Late July - Mid-late August Very large, medium blue, firm   Good, tart, highly aromatic
Jersey Late July - Mid-late August Medium, medium blue, firm   Fair, no aroma
Dixi Early - Mid-late August Large-very large, medium blue, firm   Good to excellent, aromatic
Darrow Early - Mid-late August Large-very large, light blue, firm   Excellent, tart
Lateblue Mid - Late August Medium-large, light-medium blue, firm   Good to very good
Elliott Mid-late Aug. - Early Sept. Medium, light blue, firm   Mild to good, slightly tart
Source: EC 1308 "Blueberry Cultivars for Oregon" B.C. Strik, OSU Extension Service

 


Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC),
Anthocyanin, and Polyphenol Values

  ORAC

13.1 ± 0.5 ( µ mol TE/g) 1
24.0 ± 2.0 ( µ mol TE/g) 2

  Total anthocyanin

182 ± 9 (mg/100 g) 1
122.7 ± 11.0 (mg/100g) 2

  Total phenolics

313 ± 8 (mg/100 g) 1
290.7 ± 20.5 (mg/100g) 2

Sources:
1 Highbush blueberry fruit ( Vaccinium corymbosum L. cv. Duke) by
“Zheng, Y, Wang, CY, Wang, SY, and Zheng, W. 2003. Effect of High-Oxygen
Atmospheres on Blueberry Phenolics, Anthocyanins, and Antioxidant Capacity.
J Ag Food Chem 51: 7162-7169”.

2 Average value of different cultivars of four Vaccinium species
[Vaccinium corymbosum L (Highbush), Vaccinium ashei Reade (Rabbiteye),
Vaccinium angustifolium
(Lowbush), and Vaccinium myrtillus L (Bilberry)] by
“Prior, RL, Cao, G, Martin, A, Sofic, E, McEwen, J, O'Brien, C, Lischner, N,
Ehlenfeldt, M, Kalt, W, Krewer, G and Mainland, CM. 1998. Antioxidant Capacity
As Influenced by Total Phenolic and Anthocyanin Content, Maturity, and Variety
of Vaccinium Species. J Ag Food Chem 46:2686-2693”.

 



Flavonoid Content

Subclass
Flavonoid
Mean
mg/100g edible portion
Minimum
Maximum
No. of Samples
Anthocyanidins Cyanidin
15.02
  4.79
28.72
12
  Delphinidin
29.54
20.82
47.37
12
  Malvidin
49.21
32.95
69.44
12
  Peonidin
  7.05
  1.01
19.37
12
  Petunidin
11.73
  7.19
18.25
12
Flavan-3-ols (-)-Epicatechin
  1.11
  1.11
  1.11
 4
Flavonols Myricetin
  0.82
  0.00
  2.60
 6
  Quercetin
  3.11
  1.70
  7.30
 7
The USDA Database for flavonoids was created in response to interest by the scientific community in types of flavonoid compounds and their varied biological properties including antioxidative, antimicrobial, and potential anticarcinogenic, and/or cardioprotective effects.
Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods. Nutrient Data Laboratory, Food Composition Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, March 2003.




Proanthocyanidin Content

Proanthocyanidin
Mean
mg/100 g. edible portion
Minimum
Maximum
No. of Samples
Monomers
    3.46
  2.07
    5.58
11
Dimers
    5.71
  1.66
    9.48
11
Trimers
    4.15
  0.73
    7.37
11
4-6mers
  19.57
15.75
  26.04
 8
7-10mers
  14.55
10.99
  17.40
 8
Polymers
129.05
58.37
200.62
 8
The free radical scavenging properties of proanthocyanidins including their potential for risk reduction of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, blood clotting and protection against urinary tract infections have been under investigation by scientists. Also referred to as "condensed tannis," proanthocyanidins polymers of flavan-3-ols, contribute astringent flavor to foods. Following is a listing of proanthocyanidin content of raw blueberries from the USDA Database for the Proanthocyanidin Content of Selected Foods.
Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, USDA Database for the Proanthocyanidin Content of Selected Foods. Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, August 2004.

 

Nutritional Profile of Blueberries
(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Nutrients 1 cup fresh 1 cup canned, heavy syrup packed 1 cup unthawed, sweetened frozen
Weight 145 grams 256 grams 230 grams
Calories 83 225 186
Protein 1.07 grams 1.66 grams 0.92 grams
Lipid (fat) 0.48 grams 0.84 grams 0.30 grams
Carbohydrate, by difference 21.01 grams 56.47 grams 50.48 grams
Fiber, total dietary 3.5 grams 4.1 grams 5.1 grams
Sugars, total 14.44 grams 52.38 grams 45.36 grams
Sucrose 0.16 grams    
Glucose (dextrose) 7.08 grams    
Fructose 7.21 grams    
Starch 0.04 grams    
Calcium 9 mg 13 mg 14 mg
Iron 0.41 mg 0.84 mg 0.90 mg
Magnesium 9 mg 10 mg 5 mg
Phosphorus 17 mg 26 mg 16 mg
Potassium 112 mg 102 mg 138 mg
Sodium 1 mg 8 mg 2 mg
Zinc 0.23 mg 0.18 mg 0.14 mg
Copper 0.083 mg 0.136 mg 0.090 mg
Manganese 0.487 mg 0.520 mg 0.603 mg
Selenium 0.1 mcg 0.3 mcg 0.5 mcg
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 14.1 mg 2.8 mg 2.3 mg
Thiamin 0.054 mg 0.087 mg 0.046 mg
Riboflavin 0.059 mg 0.136 mg 0.120 mg
Niacin 0.606 mg 0.289 mg 0.582 mg
Pantothenic acid 0.180 mg 0.228 mg 0.287 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.075 mg 0.092 mg 0.136 mg
Folate, total 9 mcg 5 mcg 16 mcg
Folate, food 9 mcg 5 mcg 16 mcg
Folate, DFE 9 mcg_DFE 5 mcg_DFE 16 mcg_DFE
Vitamin A, IU 78 IU 92 IU 113 IU
Vitamin A, RAE 4 mcg_RAE 5 mcg_RAE 5 mcg_RAE
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 0.83 mg 0.97 mg 1.20 mg
Tocopherol, beta 0.01 mg    
Tocopherol, gamma 0.53 mg    
Tocopherol, delta 0.04 mg    
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) 28.0 mcg 16.4 mcg 40.7 mcg

 

Health Benefits of Blueberries
Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Health Section
From research labs all across the country and the world, there is growing evidence that blueberries could be powerful little disease fighters. Here is what we have learned so far...

Antioxidants - Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) have found that blueberries rank #1 in antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals" that can lead to cancer and other age related diseases.

Anthocyanin -- the pigment that makes the blueberries blue -- is thought to be responsible for this major health benefit.

Anti-Aging - In another USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) lab, neuroscientists discovered that feeding blueberries to laboratory rats slowed age-related loss in their mental capacity, a finding that has important implications for humans. Again, the high antioxidant activity of blueberries probably played a role.

Disease Prevention - Blueberries may reduce the build up of so called "bad" cholesterol that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to scientists at the University of California at Davis. Antioxidants are believed to be the active component.

Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections - Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have identified a compound in blueberries that promotes urinary tract health and reduces the risk of infection. It appears to work by preventing bacteria from adhering to the cells that line the walls of the urinary tract.

Blueberries and Eyesight - A number of studies in Europe have documented the relationship between bilberries, the European cousin of blueberries and improved eyesight. This is thought to occur because of the anthocyanin in the blue pigment which is also available in the blueberry. One study in Japan documented that blueberries helped ease eye fatigue.

New Research
Cholesterol Reducing Blueberries - At the recent American Chemical Society meeting it was reported that a compound found in blueberries called pterostilbene has "the potential to be developed into a nutraceutical for lowering cholesterol, particularly for those who do not respond well to conventional drugs," reports foodnavigator.com (8/24/04). Study authors from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) indicate that the compound found in Vaccinium berries could be a "potent weapon in the battle against obesity and heart disease through its cholesterol-reducing potential." Head researcher, Agnes M. Rimando and her associates "earlier showed that this compound may help fight cancer." An abstract of the study is found on the Agricultural Research Service website which also studied the presence of resveratrol and piceatannol . According to the technical abstract, "These naturally occurring stilbenes, known to be strong antioxidants and to have cancer chemopreventive activity, will add to purported health benefits derived from consumption of these small fruits."

Ethnobotany and Blueberries: Blueberries have been associated with positive physiological and cosmetic benefits for centuries. Here we list non scientific information which although not endorsed by the USHBC, may be of interest to researchers as a direction for further research.

  • Blueberry Health and Nutrition traditions in China. (under construction)
  • Native American and First Nations of Canada blueberry health and medicinal traditions. (under construction)
  • Blueberry health and nutrition in Russia and Central European Traditions. (under construction)

Nutrition Summary - The following summarizes some of the published research in the area of nutraceuticals and health.

The belief that food products have medicinal properties has been celebrated in folk medicine for centuries. Today food properties are being explored by the medical and scientific fields. Some cultures have long valued many naturally occurring substances believed to have preventative and therapeutic value. In the United States, nutraceuticals are part of a rapidly expanding area of biomedical research, generating considerable interest among consumers, manufacturers, and regulators alike. This is a progressive area; the field is continually conducting studies and discovering possible benefits.

Though blueberries themselves are not a cure-all, they contain a number of substances which are thought to have health benefits. These substances include, but are not limited to fructose, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants thus far, seem to have the most conclusive role in the prevention/ delaying of such diseases as cancer, heart disease and the aging process however, a limited number of studies, especially long term and on human beings, are not available at this time.