The newly discovered high-levels of healthy nutrients in blueberries has elevated the fruit to 'super fruit' among all fruits, say scientists at Texas AgriLife Research.
After analysing 100 varieties of plums, peaches and nectarines, scientists have found them to match or exceed the much-touted blueberries in antioxidants and phytonutrients associated with disease prevention.
Plainly, "blueberries have some stiff competition. Stone fruits are super fruits with plums as emerging stars," said Dr. Luis Cisneros, AgriLife Research food scientist.
Cisneros, along with Dr. David Byrne, AgriLife Research plant breeder, acknowledged that while blueberries remain a good nutritional choice, a single inexpensive plum contains about the same amount of antioxidants as a handful of more expensive blueberries.
"People tend to eat just a few blueberries at a time - a few on the cereal or as an ingredient mixed with lots of sugar. But people will eat a whole plum at once and get the full benefit," said Cisneros.
Scientists discovered the plum's benefits, along with that of fellow stone fruits, the peach and the nectarine, after measuring at least five brands of blueberries on the market.
Against those numbers, the team measured the content of more than 100 different types of plums, nectarines and peaches.
Firstly, they compared antioxidants, molecules that sweep through a body looking for free radicals to knock out. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that lurk where diseases like cancer and heart disease are found.
"Knowing that we had all these varieties with high levels of antioxidants, then the possibility of preventing these diseases would also be high with their consumption, so we went to the next step - how these compounds could actually inhibit chronic diseases," said Cisneros.
The team examined the full content of plums and peaches, and then tested the effect of the compounds they found on breast cancer cells and cholesterol in the lab.
"We screened the varieties again with the biological assays. And that had never been done before, because it is expensive and a lot of work. But that investment is small in terms of the information we got, and how it can be used now for breeding efforts to produce even better fruit," said Cisneros.
Byrne pointed out that one benefit was that the phytonutrients in plums inhibited in vitro breast cancer growth without adversely affecting normal cell growth.
"Future work with stone fruits will focus on cardiovascular and cancer using animal models and identification of specific compounds that exert the properties," added Cisneros.
"We suggest that consumers take seriously the recommendation to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables - or even more - every day and to make sure that plums are part of that," said Byrne.