A U.S. Department of Agriculture study has found that blueberries may help fight heart disease and aging.
"This study found that blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants," said Gerard Krewer, an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"These natural substances are found in many fruits and vegetables," he said. "They neutralize the free radicals that contribute to heart disease and aging."
The USDA study was conducted last summer at the USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. It found that blueberries, including Georgia's rabbiteye type, are high in antioxidants.
Blueberries, in fact, were the highest in antioxidant activity of the more than 40 fruits and vegetables tested.
"Besides the high levels of antioxidants, blueberries are very high in vitamin C and fiber, too," Krewer said. "And they have only 80 calories per cup."
Krewer said the high vitamin C and fiber content were already known. "But until this study, we didn't know they were so high in antioxidants," he said. "They have turned out to be an excellent health food."
Georgia has about 4,000 acres of blueberries. The state's farmers grow 6 million to 13 million pounds each year. That ranks them fourth in the nation behind Michigan, New Jersey and Oregon. Many Georgians grow them, too, in backyard gardens.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)