Thursday, January 24, 2013
Berry Good News
Good Berry News
January 24, 2013
The latest update on women's health makes for good eating: three weekly servings of blueberries or strawberries can help cut the risk of a heart attack by as much as one-third.
This finding follows a review of health information obtained from 93,600 women ages 25 to 43 enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II. The participants completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.
In analyzing the data, the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the UK's University of East Anglia, noted that women who reported eating the most berries had a heart attack risk that was 32 percent lower than those who ate blueberries or strawberries only once a month or less, even if their diets were otherwise rich in fruits and vegetables.
The berries may have made the difference because of the anthocyanins they contain - the investigators said that these naturally occurring compounds may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.
The berries' positive effects were apparently independent of other heart attack risk factors, such as age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body mass, exercise, smoking, caffeine or alcohol intake.
The study was published in the January 15, 2013 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Dr. Weil's take? This is very good - but not surprising - news about the health benefits of blueberries and strawberries. They are both anti-inflammatory, good sources of fiber, rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, and offer immune-boosting antioxidant activity.
Dr. Weil enjoys berries and recommends eating them frequently. Because commercial strains of berries may be heavily sprayed with pesticides, however, he recommends buying only organic varieties.
I recommend that you grow blueberries. They are delicious, fruit-bearing shrubs and they are very easy to grow.
They are nice contained looking plants (they do get tall) and the berries are easy to harvest. They can be grown in pots and thrive. There are many different varieties bred for all different climates. It is best to research what grows best in your area.
In the Sacramento Valley, several highbush blueberry varieties do well. Some of those varieties that do well here are Bluecrop, Blue Ray, Cape Fear, Georgia Gem, O'Neal, Ozark Blue, Sharp Blue, Sunshine Blue and especially Reveille. Try out several varieties in your garden so you can extend your harvesting season. This will also improve pollination for a better crop.
Plant blueberries where they are protected from the hot afternoon sun and drying winds. They grow well where Azaleas and Rhododendrons thrive in your garden. They like moist soil, but good drainage with lots of organic matter and mulch. They like the soil to have a ph of 4.5-.55 (which is much more acidic than our soil in the valley), and they will show you an iron deficiency when the ph isn't right. It has been recommended that if planting in pots, moist woodchip mulch be added to the potting medium to help the acidity. Instead of adding peat moss for acidity (which is not sustainable) add leaf mulch, pine needle mulch, sawdust mulch, or ground woodchip mulch.
Now, you can just enjoy eating fresh blueberries right out of your own garden. If you have too many, they freeze well or can be dried for storage.
My friend Susan Setzler in Virginia shared this hint: When you dry blueberries, you need to prick each one a little so they don't dry on the outside and not get dry in the middle (case hardening) and then they will spoil in storage, unless you freeze them.