Eat your blueberries

Paul Smith
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You get what you pay for. I believe this to be certainly true 90 per cent of the time, but on occasion one encounters amazing deals.

I just bought a fantastic knife on eBay, handcrafted in India from Damascus steel and finished with a marvellous and functional stag handle.

I’m always on the prowl for unique and appealing blades. Damascus steel has quite an interesting history, being used in both knives and swords. Stay tuned for more on that.

Sometimes you can get really good stuff for nothing — well, maybe just a bit of sweat equity. Nowadays a bunch of us frequent the gym, or run around the streets, getting nothing but sweaty and tuckered out to show for it.

I’m not poking fun, just being a little facetious to make a point. I believe in exercise and I’ve done my fair share of pounding the pavement and pumping iron with no purpose but raw exertion. But it’s so much more satisfying if you get your daily exercise and have something concrete to show for it as a bonus.

I cut all my own firewood and heated my home 100 per cent from the spoils of my labour for eight consecutive years. It was hard work, but I felt so satisfied sitting in a cozy home during a cold winter night with the wood furnace bellowing free heat. Well, not exactly free, I had to buy a chain saw and fill my truck with gas, but it was a lot cheaper than paying for oil or electricity.

When I retire from the daily grind and have more time, I’m returning to wood heat. Muskrat Falls is making me nervous. I’ll have more money in my pocket and firmer biceps. And I’ll set a few rabbit snares around the spruce tops and catch my supper for free.

Did anyone notice how blue the barrens turned as autumn approached this year? I can’t recall so marvellous a blueberry crop, at least not for a very long time. Now there’s a deal if there ever was one.

I wonder, do any of us take time to appreciate how wonderful an opportunity we have to indulge in fresh fruit and stock our refrigerators for winter? Probably not many. I think most of us Newfoundlanders take such privileges for granted. It’s always been there. It’s not until someone takes it away that we fuss about not having something, like the right to catch cod for food.

Blueberries this year were very plentiful, and the only requirement to fill your bucket was a walk along the barrens and some stretching of the hamstrings. Now that is one amazing deal. Check the price of fruit at the supermarket if you have doubts.

The lowly and free-for-the-picking blueberry is a super food. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center looked at more than 100 common foods and found that, among fruits, wild and cultivated blueberries had the highest total antioxidant content.

But in my opinion, wild blueberries taste so much better than their farmed cousins.

Antioxidants wage war against disease-inducing free radicals in our body. In simple language, that is a very good thing. We should all eat blueberries, young and old alike.

A University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study showed that rats fed blueberries as part of either a low- or a high-fat diet had less abdominal fat and lower bad blood fat and cholesterol than their non-berry eating comrades. They think blueberry intake affected genes linked to fat burning and storage. That means that eating blueberry pie will make us skinny. How’s that for having your cake and eating it at the same time?

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the blue-red pigments found in blueberries help reduce hypertension. Over a 14-year period, the study looked at about 134,000 women and 23,000 men. Those eating more than a half cup of blueberries a week reduced their risk of developing high blood pressure by 10 per cent.

My goodness, I eat at least a quarter cup every day. I’m going to have to eat more salt to keep my pressure up. (Just joking. Don’t eat too much salt even if you eat a blueberry pie every day.)

Anthocyanins in blueberries have been linked to an increase in neuronal signalling in brain centres. A small study done at the University of Cincinnati investigated the effect of daily consumption of wild blueberry juice on older adults with memory issues. After 12 weeks, participants showed improved memory function. My wife is going to dispute this one. I’m getting pretty forgetful, unless it’s about fishing or hunting.

The results of a study published in 2010 in Carcinogenesis showed that pterostilbene, a compound in blueberries, may help protect against colon cancer. The researchers demonstrated pterostilbene’s ability to suppress colon tumour growth, as well as key inflammatory markers. This is a very big deal. Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Canada. Lung cancer is the number one killer. I’ll eat my blueberries based on this piece of research alone.

This was a bumper year for blueberries. Goldie and I picked close to 10 gallons. That’s a lot of hamstring stretching.

Every morning, I mix a handful into my oatmeal. Goldie makes lovely blueberry bran muffins, delicious jam, and the occasional pie. I love freshly baked blueberry pie and strong black coffee. And what traditional Sunday dinner would be complete without a blueberry duff.

So, we eat plenty of blueberries. And our kids are even eating more of them. My new granddaughter Rory started eating blueberries at six months. I hope that research I cited has some truth to it. Then again, blueberries taste delicious, and are a natural, wild-growing fruit with no artificial fertilizers or pesticides. You can’t beat that.

I’m banking on them being a better bet than vitamin pills and energy bars.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay,

fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

Organizations: EBay, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Nutrition Center University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center American Journal University of Cincinnati

Geographic location: Damascus, India, Canada

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