Are Blueberries Really All That?

If you’re lazy to read this post, or too busy, or just have better things to do than read about blueberries, the short answer is yes, various research studies do point toward this conclusion. So, you can stop reading now and go to your over-priced health food market to buy berries.

The longer answer is that blueberries have been overhyped and intensely marketed for the past 20 years. The industry has successfully convinced us to buy 1.5 billion pounds of blueberries a year. But for once, the marketing and hype is not a total scam – there is plenty of research confirming the health benefits of blueberries. In both rats and humans, blueberries are found to lower blood pressure, improve memory and balance blood-sugar levels. In older adults they may even improve mobility.

So, they are a superfruit! Okay. If you want to call them that, but the term’s value is purely in marketing. In scientific research, superfruit is meaningless. In popular culture – as well as Whole Foods’ aisles and farmer’s markets – a superfruit is understood to be a magical life-extending berry full of antioxidants, whatever those are. Hipsters and enlightened shoppers repeat the “superfruit-equals-antioxidant-equals-longer-life” formula wherever organic labels linger. We know we should eat fruits and vegetables with darker colors, although we don’t really understand the science behind this axiom.

And it doesn’t really matter anyway, so those who stopped reading after the first paragraph were smart to do so. The truth is most fruits and vegetables are “super” but the darker ones are a bit more super that the “super” ones. Blueberries are a super-superfruit. Spinach is the blueberry of vegetables. Or is it Kale?

Scientifically, an antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage cells. Antioxidants stop these chain reactions from occurring. This sounds like a good thing, right? If you can memorize this you will sound ridiculously smart and overly pretentious the next time one of your hipster friends uses the term superfruit. And you won’t have to wait long, I’m sure.

In the meantime, eat your blueberries.

Dr. H.