Are They Really Blueberries?


Blueberries, together with broccoli, red peppers and brazil nuts, are often described as a "superfood." Packed with antioxidant anthrocyanins, they have been found to help ward off infection, decrease aging in the brain, and lower cholesterol levels. In fact, blueberries are widely used in herbal medicine for their effectiveness in repairing damaged blood vessels and have been shown to be more effective at lowering cholesterol than some commonly prescribed drugs for this purpose. Blueberries contain a potent chemical called pterostilbene, which has been found to protect against the development of cancer. They are also a good source of manganese, which is important for healthy bone growth. A single serving of 100g of berries contains 25% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C and only 57 calories.

With all of these benefits it is not surprising that food manufacturers are keen to ride on the back of this superfood, and market their products accordingly. However, a recent report by food journalist Mike Adams (also known as Health Ranger) revealed that there are a number of manufacturers who are being less than honest with respect to the actual content of blueberries in their food. Items such as bagels, muffins and breakfast cereals are packaged with prominent pictures of blueberries, yet contain none of the actual fruit. Why do this?

Well, real blueberries cost money, and it is cheaper to substitute for the genuine item with bits that look like blueberries, made from sugar, corn starch and food coloring, among other things. If you are guessing at this point that these fake berries, as well as being less expensive, contain less nutritional value than the real thing, then you would be right. As a consumer, though, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that a product called something like Super Blueberry Cereal would actually contain blueberries. Sadly, such is not always the case.

So, what to do? It would be a shame not to eat blueberries just because of false claims made by some manufacturers, but scrutinizing the label is rarely a bad thing, and will serve you well here. Even though it is not illegal to put pictures of blueberries on the front of a product that contains none, it is stepping over the legal boundary to include them in the list of ingredients. So, unless that contains actual mention of blueberries, bilberries or their botanical name Vaccinuum, you should probably look elsewhere for you dose of this superfood.

Although the convenience of pre-packaged cereals can be extremely tempting, the best way to consume blueberries is to buy the fresh fruit itself. These can be added to cereals or baked into muffins or pancakes, which are both delicious and look wonderful as the warm berry juice seeps out into the pancake. Our recipe for Whole Wheat Berry Pancakes is a good one to try. Otherwise, blueberries taste excellent stirred into yogurt, or just eaten on their own as a healthy snack. Please don’t let the behavior of some food manufacturers put you off getting your daily dose, as this is one little berry you really don’t want to miss out on!

Andy McLellan


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