Athens Farmers Market Blueberry Season!

By Rebecca Smith

It’s BLUEBERRY SEASON!

Blueberries are widely known as a superfruit because of their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. If that isn’t reason enough, blueberries, when eaten in season, practically taste like candy. I can’t get enough of these delicious, nutrient dense berries, whether they are in smoothies, muffins, or fresh off the bush (as you will find them at AFM).

At about 71 calories in 1 cup, blueberries are a nutrient dense food, meaning that for every calorie there are substantial nutrients consumed. They are packed with antioxidants and are naturally low in fat and high in fiber. They are also an excellent source of manganese, which is important for bone development.

Their deep blue/purple color indicates that these fruits contain high amounts of anthocyanins, which are defined as any of various water-soluble pigments that impart to flowers and other plant parts colors ranging from violet and blue to most shades of red. There is current interest in anthocyanins due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and their ability to decrease capillary fragility. Dietary antioxidants such as anthocyanins may help provide protection from oxidative damage.

So what’s an antioxidant anyway? Here’s the scoop! In our bodies, a small number of oxygen molecules will become electrically charged either from environmental factors (like smoking and radiation) or from natural cellular activity. The process of oxidation (losing electrons) produces free radicals, which are highly reactive and attract electrons from other molecules like DNA and cellular membranes. This results in a chain reaction of free radicals that can damage cells and may play a role in the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants, like those found in blueberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables, give up their electrons and neutralize free radicals. They do not become reactive after losing electrons and stop further oxidative damage!

Now that it’s clear that blueberries are delicious and nutritious, why go organic? Blueberries are among the twelve foods on which pesticide residues are most frequently found, according to the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 report. So if you are like me, and would like to avoid consuming pesticides, organically grown blueberries are the way to go. There may also be significant differences in antioxidant capacity between conventional versus organically grown blueberries. In a recent study organically grown blueberries turned out to have significantly higher concentrations of total phenol antioxidants and total anthocyanin antioxidants than conventionally grown blueberries, as well as significantly higher total antioxidant capacity. The fresh blueberries you will find at the Athens Farmers Market are Certified Naturally Grown with no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds, just like organic farms.

Come try these delicious and healthy berries at the market!

AFM