What do we have in common with laboratory hamsters? Well, recently scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture fed rations spiked with blueberries to hamsters and those on the blueberry rich diet had better cholesterol health than hamsters whose rations weren’t enhanced with blueberries. Further research is needed to confirm whether the effects observed in hamsters hold true for humans.
In the investigation, hamsters were fed high-fat rations. For some animals, those rations were supplemented with one of three different kinds of juice byproducts: blueberry skins -- that is, peels leftover when berries are pressed to make juice; fiber extracted from the peels; or natural compounds known as polyphenols, also extracted from the peels. Blueberry polyphenols give the fruit its purple, blue, and red coloration.
It was reported that all the hamsters that were fed blueberry-enhanced rations had from 22 to 27 percent lower total plasma cholesterol than hamsters fed rations that didn’t contain blueberry juice byproducts. Levels of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein—a form of “bad” cholesterol) were about 44 percent lower in the blueberry-fed hamsters.
With improved health on the minds of many Americans, right now is a good time to discover how important blueberries are in maintaining good health, according to LSU AgCenter nutrition specialist Heli Roy
Fruits like blueberries contain antioxidants that help the body by keeping blood vessels strong, killing cancer cells, regulating glucose and insulin values and killing different microbes in the intestinal tract.
Blueberries are one of the easiest of the home-fruiting plants to grow in Louisiana. They require very low maintenance. About all they need is acid soil with good drainage and a sunny location. The ideal planting time for blueberries in Louisiana is during the cool months from October through about March. It is best to plant more than one variety. They cross-pollinate, which means more fruit and larger fruit.
Blueberries and other flavorful and healthy fruits are in season and available at pick-your-own farms throughout Louisiana. An easy way to locate a farm near you is to use the LSU AgCenter’s MarketMaker
. Simply search for the product you want and a listing of producers and their locations are shown.