Blueberries: A Short History and Why You Should Eat Them

By Leah Judice, MS, RDN, LDN

blueberries in basket on woodIn the early 20th century, a persistent New Jersey farmer and a curious USDA botanist cultivated the modern blueberry industry. They worked together to successfully harvest and sell the first commercial crop of highbush blueberries in 1916. Today, the United States is the largest producer of blueberries and New Jersey is considered the “Blueberry Capital of the World.”

The peak of the fresh blueberry season runs from April to late September in North America. From October to March, blueberries are imported from South America, making blueberries available year round.

Nutritional Benefits

Have you ever wondered why blueberries are so vibrant in color? They’re packed with phytonutrients—naturally occurring chemicals in fruits and vegetables that are considered to have beneficial effects on human health. These phytonutrients are rich in anthocyanins—a pigment that contributes to blueberries’ beautiful purplish-blue color. 

Plants produce anthocyanins to protect themselves against environmental stressors such as cold temperatures and drought. Blueberries may be small in size, but this phytonutrient gives them their fierce super fruit reputation.

According to this study, a higher intake of anthocyanin can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Even slightly increasing your intake of blueberries and anthocyanin can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and neurological decline.

Blueberries also include four essential nutrients

• Fiber for keeping cholesterol in check and maintaining regularity
• Vitamin C for a healthy immune system
• Vitamin K for regulating blood clotting
• Manganese for bone development

How to Enjoy

• Throw some fresh blueberries over a yogurt parfait, oatmeal, rice cake, or waffles. 
• Sweeten up a salad by adding in antioxidant-rich blueberries.
• Create a nutrient-packed smoothie by mixing in some colorful blueberries. 
• Try making these blueberry cheesecake squares from the HHS Cookbook.