Blueberries are little nuggets of goodness: Sweet, tart, and full of good-for-you antioxidants. So you probably think you're getting an extra boost of flavor and nutrition when you pick up a bag of blueberry bagels, or blueberry muffin mix, or blueberry-spiked cereal.
Bad news: The chances are good that those "blueberries" are actually a concoction of artificial colors, sugar, gums, starches, corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils (full of the dreaded "trans fats") with no actual blueberry content at all.
Investigative reporter Mike Adams, who calls himself the "Health Ranger," looked at a wide range of products from national brands, like General Mills, Kellogg's, and Betty Crocker, and found that while they were festooned with images of plump, ripe, succulent berries, they usually contained no real blueberries at all, and if they did, they were much farther down the ingredient list than the lab-created stuff.
The tipoff is the presence of artificial colors Blue #2 and Red Dye #40. They are used to mimic real blueberries' deep purple-blue hue. They're usually pretty far down the ingredient list, so make sure you read the whole label. "Health food store"-type brands are more likely to have the real deal, but it's still important to check; even seemingly healthy brands like Fiber One muffin mix have the fake blueberries in them.
Why do food companies do this? In a word, price. Real blueberries are expensive; faking them is cheap. Of course, I have to wonder if anyone was actually fooled; most "blueberry" products taste more like chemicals than like actual blueberries.
The best way to avoid this is to buy blueberries fresh in season and frozen during the rest of the year and add your own blueberries to muffins and cereal. That way you know you're getting every bit of the good stuff that you're paying for.
Image via Andrea Pokrzywinski/Flickr