2 April 2006

Low GI Food of the Month

Wild About Wild Blueberries
Make blueberries an everyday health habit. As one of today’s superfoods, they are bursting with nutrition and flavour while being very low in kilojoules/calories. They are popular for eating fresh or using in pancakes and smoothies, muffins, jams, as a snack and in many other dishes and desserts.


But like us, you probably didn’t know that not all blueberries are the same. Most blueberries you buy in the supermarket or fresh produce store will be cultivated highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L). In the US, it’s also possible to buy frozen wild blueberries (V. angustifolium), all year long (GI 53 tested by Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc). Wild blueberries are smaller, about one-third the size of cultivated and have a more intense blueberry flavor and they retain their shape well in cooking. Wild blueberries are also significantly higher in anti-oxidant activity than their cultivated cousins. In fact, they are richer in anti-oxidants compared with more than 20 other fruits (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004, 52: 4026-4037) including cranberries, strawberries, plums, and raspberries. The blue pigment in blueberries called anthocyanins is responsible for most of the antioxidant activity. Blue is good for you!

Wild blueberries are one of three berries native to North America – the others are cranberry and Concord grapes. They thrive in the northern climate of Maine, Atlantic Canada and Quebec where the growers manage the traditional fields and ‘barrens’ to encourage the crop to grow in a sustainable fashion. Although they are may be harvested in a traditional way (with hand-held berry rakes), they are sorted, cleaned and processed using state-of-the-art-technology to preserve their flavor, quality and anti-oxidant qualities. Frozen wild blueberries are shipped world wide Japan, Europe, Korea, Middle East, and Australia. Fresh wild blueberries are only available during the short season locally in Maine and Canada. (Wild blueberries have never been hybridized so don’t ship well in the fresh state or hold up in stores for any length of time.)

Try these quick and easy serving suggestions for fresh and frozen wild blueberries:

  • Combine blueberries with a little caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or a little white wine or orange juice. Let the flavours develop for 30 minutes or so at room temperature then serve on their own or with low-fat ice-cream
  • Make blueberry smoothies with low fat milk, soy milk or yoghurt for breakfast or a meal in a glass when you are on the run.) If you use frozen fruit you don’t need ice cubes.
  • Add 1/2 cup to your morning cereal or yoghurt or yogurt
  • Toss them into pancake or waffle batter
  • Sprinkle them into your garden salad or fruit salad
For a selection of tasty wild blueberry recipes go to www.wildblueberries.com


sage said...

I love your post today; if more people knew about the glycemic index in their foods, there would be less obesity in the world. Great topic. If you get a chance, stop by my new food blog.
paulette aka sage

Anonymous said...

So happy I found this great site! Glad to hear our 'wild blueberry' (northeastern US) talked up so highly. We love them! Love to hear more about the 'black currant' too!

-Blueberry Babe

Melissa S. Green said...

Excuse me, but there are lots more berries native to North America than just the three you name. I grew up picking wild huckleberries in Montana with my family (Vaccinium globulare and Vaccinium membranaceum), and in Alaska where I live now there are numerous berry species that aren't mentioned here -- highbush cranberry, lowbush cranberry, watermelon berry (AKA twisted stalk), salmonberry, timberberry, crowberry... to name but a few. All of these are edible.

Melissa S. Green said...

(Note that lowbush cranberry & highbush cranberry are not the same species as those growing in the eastern U.S., or that are popularly associated with the cranberry sauce eaten with U.S. Thanksgiving dinner.)

Anonymous said...

hi Mel, thats interesting. maybe you guys in GI group could do a GI testing on those foods?

Melissa S. Green said...

Well, I wouldn't expect them to GI test every berry native to North America. The point I want to make is simply that their statement that Wild blueberries are one of three berries native to North America – the others are cranberry and Concord grapes. is wildly inaccurate -- there are many more indigenous species of plants with berries, including edible berries, than that.

I will mention also that there is a wild blueberry which grows in alpine tundra in the Chugach Mountains right here in Alaska that is probably different than the blueberry species mentioned in the article. Given that these blueberries have that same blue pigment, & so do Montana huckleberries (& no doubt other species of huckleberries native to other parts of North America), and so do crowberries, they are also probably really beneficial.

Which is good, because we like to go up into the mountains in the fall & pick them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the information on berries -- we will try and make use of it in our next berry story. We really appreciate your taking the time to share your knowledge and post your comments.