The Center for Disease Control calls them a Powerhouse Fruit; the Mayo Clinic calls them a Superfood – but we just call them delicious. Blueberries, small dark indigo berries that grow on flowering bushes; they’re especially popular in Maine. Sweet and tasty, blueberries are an easy low-calorie snack. Not just a versatile treat – blueberries also have many health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, helping prevent cancer, and boosting your immune system. Blueberries can be consumed fresh or frozen, without losing any of the health benefits, vitamins, and minerals.
Low Calorie, High Nutrient
A one cup serving of blueberries – about a handful – contains just 80 calories, but a whopping 25 percent of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C and 4 grams of fiber. Blueberries also provide a substantial amount of Vitamin K (36 percent of your RDA) and Manganese (25 percent of your RDA) – based on a 2000 calorie diet. Vitamin K is difficult to find in nature. It’s essential in helping your blood retain the ability to clot. Manganese, typically found in fruit and vegetables with dark colored skins, helps prevent osteoporosis and inflammation in your joints. It’s especially beneficial for women and the elderly.
High in Anti-Oxidants
We hear about anti-oxidants all the time – but what do they do? Your body has unstable molecules called “free radicals.” These molecules actively damage other cells, making regeneration difficult. In some cases, the damage from free radicals can lead to the formation of cancerous growths. Anti-oxidants in the body help fight free radicals and protect the “normal” cells. A balance between anti-oxidants and free radicals has been demonstrated to slow or prevent cancer. The dark skin of blueberries is high in anti-oxidants. In fact, out of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables, blueberries have the highest concentration of anti-oxidants! Regular consumption of blueberries, especially wild blueberries, can help prevent and repair cell damage.
Slow the aging process
Everyone wants a natural “fountain of youth” – and slowing the breakdown of DNA in your body might get you there. Hang on, because this is a little technical. Oxidative DNA in cells causes them to break down prematurely, and become unable to repair themselves fully. In large numbers, the effects are a worn-out body – problems with eyesight and hearing and wearing down of your internal organs. Your skin, the largest organ, also shows aging and damage as the DNA breaks down. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, compounds that help prevent oxidative DNA by inhibiting the power of damaging Free Radicals in the body. Thus, high consumption of blueberries may help your body slow the aging process and help your cells normally regenerate, preserving their youthful function.
Promote Heart Health
Eating blueberries has been linked to reducing high blood pressure. It also reduces the stiffness in arterial walls, allowing the blood to flow more smoothly through your body. The anti-inflammatory properties found in blueberries help to keep your arteries supple. Blueberries are also shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol, another factor in heart disease. High blood pressure and high cholesterol make your heart work harder, and make it more difficult for it to supply the rest of your body with vital oxygen and nutrients.
Maintain Brain Function and Improve Memory
Anti-oxidants found in blueberries can help your body reduce the stress and strain of oxidation on the brain. As your brain ages, memory, learning, and general function begin to decline. Nourishing your body with healthy foods high in antioxidants, like blueberries helps retain your brain function and may even improve memory. The anti-inflammatory properties of blueberries may also help thought and memory by encouraging better flow of blood to the brain. With supple arterial walls and a reduction of inflammation in blood vessels, more blood is delivered to the cerebrum, the part of your brain responsible for higher thought.
Inflammation in joints, arteries, and muscles can make life painful. The extra pressure your body is under when you have chronic inflammation makes daily tasks, such as standing, walking, and bending, more painful. The rich antioxidants found in blueberries, along with some of the vital nutrients such as Manganese, can help your body repair and reduce inflammation. Inflammation doesn’t just affect your joints. In fact, depression and heart disease, as well as several auto-immune diseases, are associated with inflammation in the body. Studies have shown that regular consumption of blueberries led to a reduction in symptoms of several conditions due to inflammation.
The fiber found naturally in blueberries helps promote healthy gut function, aiding in digestion and bowel movement. In addition, blueberries help those seeking a better-balanced diet. Blueberries are a “juicy” fruit – with plenty of water, they help you feel full on fewer calories. This prevents overeating and overtaxing your digestive system. With 3.6 grams of fiber per one-cup serving, adding just one or two cups of blueberries to your daily meals can have a positive effect on your bowel regularity and consistency. The nutrients found in blueberries also help keep your natural gut bacteria flourishing and healthy.
Help Manage Diabetes
Blueberries are low in natural sugar. The water in the berries helps you feel full, and the natural fruit sugars help balance your blood sugar without spiking it, the way the refined white sugar can. With just 15 grams of sugar per one cup serving, blueberries are a sweet treat that won’t inflate your blood sugar. Chemicals found in blueberries, called anthocyanins, help with insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism in the body. People managing Type 2 Diabetes through proper diet and exercise will find it easier to balance their blood sugar when adding blueberries to their diet. Improved insulin sensitivity can help with metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.
May help prevent UTIs
Many women swear by cranberries and cranberry juice to help reduce the symptoms and prevent painful urinary tract infections. The same compounds found in cranberries that alleviate those symptoms are also found in blueberries. These compounds are called “anti-adhesives” and function by preventing E.coli bacteria from binding to the wall of the bladder and causing infection. While blueberries haven’t been studied to the extent of cranberries in preventing UTIs, they do have several similar active chemicals.
Adding Blueberries to your Diet
Blueberries may be eaten fresh or frozen. In the summer, many people buy or pick fresh blueberries and freeze them – simply lay blueberries on a cookie sheet and freeze, then bag tightly. Blueberries may be added to a garden salad or fruit salad. They can also be blended into a fresh fruit smoothie. You can bake blueberry muffins (make sure to use a low-sugar recipe) or add them to any pancake, or waffle recipe. Blueberries are delicious when mixed with Greek Yoghurt or atop oatmeal. Versatile and sweet, blueberries are a tasty addition to almost any snack!