Eat Purple for Your Health

Pat Rice was having a terrible time driving after dark. The Interlochen artist’s night vision was so diminished, she felt uncomfortable navigating Northern Michigan’s country roads.

That was six months ago. Now Rice is tooling around in the evening again, and she credits a daily dose of blueberries – in the form of a capsule – for the improvement in her eyesight.

The condensed whole-fruit Wild Blueberry IQ gel capsules that Rice now swears by were developed a year ago by former Traverse City cherry farmers Bob and Janet Underwood, owners of Flavonoid Sciences, and are sold by Brownwood Acres of Eastport. The Underwoods, who also created the arthritis-fighting Cherry Flex and other fruit-based concentrates and supplements, say each blueberry capsule contains the same cancer-fighting phytochemicals found in half a cup of the berries.

The buzz on blueberries and other deep-hued foods – whether consumed fresh or in capsule form – is growing, and for good reason: Recent studies show that blue- and purple-hued produce – everything from blackberries to black rice – are teeming with antioxidants called anthocyanins that can slow cellular aging, ward off blood clots, keep urinary tracts flowing and memory function in fine tune. Not only are these deep-pigmented fruits and veggies high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, they taste as good as they look. Call them feel-good functional foods.

As anecdotal praise for the blueberry capsules piles up on Brownwood Acres’ web site (brownwoodacres.com), studies continue to turn up good news about these deep-colored disease fighters in their natural form. And while researchers decide whether the best way to maximize purple foods’ nutritional value is via pill or produce stand, there’s no denying the joy of feasting on the fresh stuff.

Click on this tantalizing recipe from the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health, and we think you’ll agree.

Patty LaNoue Stearns is a freelancer based in Traverse City, Michigan and author of the cookbook Cherry Home Companion (Arbutus Press)

This article was first published in April 2005, and was updated for the web February 2008.

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