Here is something great for your summer garden. Blueberries. Not everyone can grow them. You need suitable soil conditions and temperatures. If you live in a part of the country that can support blueberry growth, what are you waiting for? Blueberries are one of those perfect foods.

Blueberries have some very nutritional and beneficial properties. They have been talking about this for the past few years and I thought I would summarize what people are saying for you.

First, blueberries may help keep blood pressure in check. Finland's largest dairy group, Valio, recently began marketing a blueberry milk product called "Evolus," which they claim is the first blood-pressure lowering food product in Europe.

According to Valio, the blue milk and has been the subject of two independent studies, including one study by the Finnish National Public Health Institute. Test subjects who had slightly elevated blood pressure were given two doses of Evolus for eight weeks. According to the company, blood pressure was measured weekly and both diastolic and systolic blood pressure in those who consumed the product fell further than the placebo groups. Here's to blue milk (but will American kids drink blue milk?)

Second, several researchers from various countries have come to believe that blueberries help protect cells from cell damage and protect our nervous systems. Recent published studies have found that animals fed a blueberry extract diet showed fewer age-related motor changes and outperformed their non-blueberry consuming peers on memory tests. The thought is that blueberries and other foods containing antioxidants may act to protect the body against damage from "oxidative stress," one of several biological processes associated with aging and neurological diseases.

Third, research on the health benefits of blueberries has also been conducted in Italy, France, Spain, Korea, U.S.A., and New Zealand. One recent Japanese study dealt specifically with the effects of blueberries on eyesight. The study took 26 people and divided them into two groups. One group ingested blueberry extract twice a day for 28 days; the other consumed a placebo. Using a variety of approaches to test vision enhancement, the results reportedly indicated that the group consuming the blueberry extract realized measurable vision gains.

Blueberry extract reportedly had a positive effect on tired eyes more than on any other symptom and there were no reported side effects. The study concluded that blueberry extract wards off certain eyesight problems but does not have much of an effect on cataracts or already weak eyes. More research is needed, but there may be promise.

Apparently, the same thing that makes blueberries blue, a pigment called anthocyanin , makes them an effective antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of "free radicals," which are unstable compound molecules that can attack human cells and damage their DNA. So eating blueberries may help offset the effects of free radicals, thereby improving our health. At least, that is the theory.

If you can grow them, maybe you should. Fortunately, we can all buy these amazing blue berries.

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