Superfruits: Back to Basics

You do not have to travel to faraway places to get your antioxidants.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Sainsbury's Blueberries
Stephen Pratt, author of Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life-Superfoods RX, calls blueberries “brainberries.”

Blueberries (brainberries?)

Bright, bold, beautiful blueberries combine the best nature has to offer: nutrients and luscious flavor. With 80 calories per cup, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, a serving contains about 14mg or almost 25 percent of the DV. Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, an excellent source of manganese and polyphenols -- specifically anthocyanins that give blueberries their blue hue and help neutralize free radicals. 

Since animal studies suggest blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions, Stephen Pratt, author of Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life-Superfoods RX, calls blueberries “brainberries.”

A recent study on rats at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center suggests that eating blueberries can help get rid of belly fat. “Some measurements were changed by blueberry even if the rats were on a high-fat diet,” says E. Mitchell Seymour, lead researcher. “We found by looking at fat muscle tissue that blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and storage. Looking at muscle tissue, we saw altered genes related to glucose uptake.”

As new research is introduced on the goodness of blueberries, their popularity continues to grow. Formats to meet a variety of formulation needs include: fresh, frozen, dehydrated, freeze-dried, preserved, canned, concentrate, juice and powder.

When EnWave Corp. (www.enwave.net), Vancouver, British Columbia, developed a novel food dehydration technology using microwave energy, it chose blueberries as its first application, in large part because of their nutrient values. Since they remove or at least reduce the amount of water in the berry, all the drying technologies concentrate the anthocyanins and other antioxidants. “Our NutraREV process can produce dried fruits with a wide variety of moisture contents and puffing,” says Jennifer Thompson, vice president of corporate development. And it does so more efficiently than freeze-drying.

“Blueberries are used in hundreds of products, and the industry has experienced explosive growth in the export markets, where new products continue to proliferate,” says Tom Payne, industry specialist for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Folsum, Calif. Some of these product ideas are finding their way back to the U.S. and are stimfulating new product development in North America. And because they add value and are in consumer demand, blueberries are showing up in many specialty food products.
 
Radiant red raspberries

Red raspberries rank in the top 10 antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and they provide important anti-inflammatories, including anthocyanins (the pigments in red, purple and blue fruits), which may help reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, macular degeneration and improve memory.

With only 70 calories, one serving (1 cup) provides 50 percent of a day’s requirement for vitamin C, fiber (32 percent), folate (6 percent), magnesium (6 percent), potassium (5 percent) and calcium, niacin, B6, phosphorus (4 percent each) and zinc.

“Long before the public became aware of the value of high-antioxidant foods, red raspberries were a favorite ingredient in functional foods and beverages such as yogurts, ice creams, juices, teas and other beverages,” says Andrew Carter, in quality control, at Gardena, Calif.-based NP Nutra, which specializes in the manufacture of red raspberry powder extracts such as Red Raspberry 20% Ellagic Acid and Red Raspberry Leaf P.E. 10:1.

“Red raspberries tend to score around 5,000 ORAC units per 100g, which make them one of the highest North American berries, and the high contents of ellagic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A, anthocyanins and cyanidins contribute to the excellent antioxidant activity of red raspberries,” he says, adding, “Since red raspberries taste great and are also high in fatty acids, fiber, iron, manganese, pectin, selenium and vitamin E, their uses as a functional ingredient are virtually unlimited.”

One of the most exciting developments is that red raspberries, especially the seeds, may become important in the booming cosmeceuticals market (skin care products with health benefits), according to the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, Lynden, Wash. The oil in raspberry seeds is rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids and has a natural SPF (sun protection factor) of 25 to 50.

Out of the bog 

Cranberries slices
Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of fiber, which reduces levels of LDL  cholesterol levels, is fairly high in vitamin A and has antioxidant phytonutrients that promote heart health.

Although most of us associate cranberries with Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, cranberries lend their potent antioxidants to all kinds of year-round foods. One serving (1 cup) is an excellent source of vitamin C (sailors ate them to fend off scurvy), a good source of fiber, which reduces levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, is fairly high in vitamin A and has antioxidant phytonutrients that promote heart health.

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