This week, TODAY is exploring longevity foods with unique, health-boosting properties that may help you live longer. With plenty of fiber and different vitamins, many fresh fruits are great for you — but we’re truly wild for wild blueberries.
Having been grown in Maine for over 10,000 years, wild blueberries are known to be one of America’s oldest indigenous crops. And when it comes to heart health and cancer prevention, healthy eating advocates say this delicious little fruit can make a big impact.
“When you break open a wild blueberry or eat it you’ll get stains on your fingers. Those stains are pigments which are the health protective compounds which help with … cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes … memory [and] many forms of cancer,” Mary Ann Lila, the director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, told TODAY.
These deep-blue pigments, known as anthocyanins, a subclass of phytonutrients called flavonoids, create stains that can be tough to get out, but research shows they’re worth it. Wild blueberries also have anti-viral characteristics that can boost immunity. Blueberries contain essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and K and manganese, while the flavonoids cause the berries to be rich in antioxidants, which work to fight inflammation.
Unlike farmed blueberries, wild blueberries, also called “low-bush” blueberries grow naturally in cold temperatures. Native Americans have used wild berries for centuries in natural medicines and to dye fabric.
And while so-called super fruits like açai have been making waves for their antioxidant-rich properties and vibrant color, Lila says blueberries are just as special.
“There’s such excitement hearing about some wild Amazonian berry…but here we have a berry that is exotic and wild,” Lila told TODAY, “and yet it’s right here, it’s local.”