03/07/2019 Nutrition and Recipes
You probably know that blueberries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods and are, in general, good for you—it is a fruit, after all. But they also help prevent cancer, improve blood pressure, protect your heart, and more!
There is nothing quite like a bowl of fresh blueberries to snack on. The popular plump and sweet little berries are so tasty that they are sometimes referred to as nature’s candy. Blueberries have taken center stage for their vast and dynamic health benefits. From rich antioxidant properties to notable anti-inflammatory relief, blueberries are worth ensuring they land on your plate often.
Historically, blueberries are one of the fruit species native to North America. In fact, Native Americans were known to revere these potent wild berries so much that they even developed folklore around them. For example, the California Blueberry Commission notes, “The Native Americans called blueberries ‘star berries’ because the blossom end of each berry—the calyx—forms a perfect five-pointed star.” Blueberries (along with their leaves and roots) were used in Native American traditions for medicinal purposes, such as relieving stomach problems.
Today, blueberries are one known as one of America’s favorite fresh berries and are produced widely across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Blueberries and nutrition go hand-in-hand—they are tasty, versatile, and incredibly high in nutrients. Here are eight of the nutritional benefits of blueberries.
1. High in Antioxidants
One unique quality of the blueberry is its significantly high antioxidant quantity—higher than any other fresh fruit, making them the queen of high-antioxidant fruits.
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that halt or slow down cellular damage by protecting the cells from damage—compounds and toxins that damage cells. Blueberries are rich in a variety of antioxidants, including anthocyanin, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
One study comparing blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries showed the blueberry to have the strongest antioxidant capacity, specifically high in anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins—two specific types of antioxidants.
Another study found that eating large amounts of berries has no unwanted or toxic effects. Therefore, it is safe to eat blueberries as often as you want as a potent source for health and vitality down to a cellular level.
2. Anti-inflammatory Support
The majority of chronic health issues that people in industrialized societies suffer from are the result of chronic inflammation in the body. Toxicity (harmful substances that you may have been exposed to through food, water, or air in your environment), chronic stress, poor dietary habits, and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the chronic inflammation that is an underlying cause of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
The blueberry’s primary antioxidant, anthocyanin, has incredible anti-inflammatory benefits that decrease many types of inflammation. Anthocyanins are responsible for the red, blue, and purple color in many fruits and vegetable such as berries, currants, and grapes. Anthocyanins are antioxidants classified as flavonoids, a particular type of phytonutrient.
Studies show that anthocyanins found in blueberries directly combat systemic inflammation and oxidative stress (damage done to the body’s cells by toxicity, stress, or poor diet) in the body. Research confirms that anthocyanins are fundamental in the reduction of chronic inflammation and metabolic disease. This improvement can be traced through some of the common inflammatory markers in the blood and body.
Eating a diet high in blueberries ensures you are getting a regular dose of anthocyanins and, therefore, supporting your body in lowering inflammation and reducing oxidative stress.
3. Cancer Prevention
The blueberry may seem like just a little sweet treat to enjoy, but this tiny berry can also protect against various forms of cancer. With its impressive nutrient profile, it is not surprising that the blueberry has some powerful healing potential and may support cancer prevention and recovery.
One study, using blueberry extract, showed the arrest of the growth of breast cancer cells in rats. This study suggests that blueberries could be an important food to include in your diet for cancer prevention measures. The study indicates that a daily dose of approximately 4.3 ounces of blueberries, for a person weighing approximately 60 kg (130 pounds), is adequate to replicate these results.
Another study confirmed that blueberries are rich in specific antioxidants—flavopiridol, ellagic acid, anethole, and resveratrol—that exert chemoprotective qualities and reduce the risk of several types of cancer including breast, oral cavity, lung, and esophageal cancer. The authors of the study also noted that the consumption of the whole blueberry protects cells from DNA damage, and may delay the progression of cancer.
Blueberries are surely a promising ingredient to include in any dietary strategy. When it comes to cancer prevention or treatment and recovery, blueberries are an important food to feature in your diet.
4. Urinary Tract Support
Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, affect millions of people each year and are one of the most common types of infections in women. UTIs typically occur when bad bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and find their way into the bladder, where they begin to multiply There are many factors that increase the likelihood of developing a UTI, including kidney stones, sexual activity, and urine pooling in the bladder.
Some common symptoms of urinary tract infections include:
- A burning sensation during urination
- More frequent urination
- Increased urinary urgency
- Suprapubic pain
- Cloudy urine
While UTIs may not be completely avoidable, blueberries have been researched as a food to combat the bacteria that attaches to the urinary tract lining. One study suggests eating blueberries (along with cranberries), as they can be an effective way to ward off infection. While the results from this study require further research, another study found that vitamin C helped reduce the number of UTIs in patients who took 100 mg/day for a three-month period compared to participants who were given ferrous sulfate or folic acid. Blueberries are among the fruits highest in ascorbic acid content (vitamin C), therefore making blueberries a worthwhile ingredient in the treatment and prevention of urinary tract infections.
Heart disease is the most common cause of death worldwide. Heart disease can come with many symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain, or—in the event of a complete blockage in the artery—a heart attack.
While there are many factors contributing to the rise of cardiovascular disease, there are a few important countermeasures to take note of. According to the American Heart Association, habits such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking are the most important preventive measures through which to prevent heart disease.
With diet playing a vital role in heart health, blueberries have gained a lot of attention as an important ingredient to include in a healthy diet and maintain good cardiovascular health.According to one study, women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a 34 percent lower risk of heart attack.
Keeping your heart healthy is imperative to feeling your best. It is therefore wise to include a robust amount of blueberries in your diet as part of your path to a healthy heart and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
6. Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a disorder of the eye that impacts the cells of the retina (specifically the macula), causing potential changes in vision. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and is expected to keep growing by the year 2020, to approximately 40 million people worldwide.
While studies show there are many contributing factors to the increasing rate of macular degeneration, such as smoking, heart disease, and an increased body mass index, diet can play a large role in the treatment and prevention of macular degeneration.
Blueberries are an important food to include in a diet focused on the treatment and prevention of macular degeneration. One study showed that foods high in powerful antioxidants, such as blueberries, improve vision and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Another study shows that fruits with anti-inflammatory properties and high vitamin C content, such as blueberries, decreases age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration.
With so much positive and hopeful evidence, it seems clear that including a hefty dose of blueberries in your diet is a smart idea to reap the long-term health benefits for your eyes.
7. Blood Pressure
Bring on the blueberries! By now, you are probably stocking up on these potent little hits of wonder, and that is a really smart choice for your health, your body, and your entire vascular system. One study showed that with just one cup of blueberries per day, there is a significant impact on blood pressure.
The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, confirmed that this daily serving of blueberries could delay the progression of pre-hypertension, as well as lower blood pressure in those with hypertension. The study included a group of 48 postmenopausal women with either pre-hypertension or mild hypertension. Half of the women were given one cup of freeze-dried blueberries for eight weeks, and the other half, a similar-tasting placebo. The results showed that the group who ate the blueberries had an average 5.1 percent decrease in systolic blood pressure (the top number), and a 6.3 percent decrease in diastolic pressure (the bottom number).
8. Brain Health
Eating food to fuel your brain health is imperative to improving cognitive functions such as memory while also slowing down oxidative stress, which is known to be responsible for accelerating the brain’s aging process.
Blueberries may be just the brain boost you need to ensure your brain is as sharp and as healthy as possible. One study showed that in a group of 26 participants who consumed blueberry concentrate once per day (30 mL per dose) over a 12-week period, there was a measurable increase in executive function, cerebral blood flow, and memory, showing that a regular intake of blueberries does promote improved brain health.
Another small study examined children and their response to a regular dose of a wild blueberry supplement. The research revealed significant improvements in word recognition and cognitive function.
Bluphoria Green Smoothie
Enjoy this high antioxidant tasty blueberry green smoothie—rich in blueberries, high-quality protein, and fresh greens—for a snack or mealtime.
- 1 cup organic blueberries
- Handful of baby spinach (or fresh greens of choice)
- 1/2 avocado
- 12 oz milk of choice (dairy or dairy-free)
- 1 teaspoon raw honey
- 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, or 1 cup dairy-free yogurt, or 1–2 scoops vegan protein powder
- Ice (optional)
Add these tasty high potency ingredients to your blender and blend. For a colder drink, use frozen berries.
Serve chilled and enjoy.
Choose organic blueberries whenever possible to decrease your exposure to pesticide residues. The benefits of eating blueberries and blueberry nutrition should be clear. The bottom line with blueberries is when you are in the mood for a snack that is as nutritious as it is delicious, go blue! The bountiful array of nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals are some of the positive effects of blueberries that support many of the different systems of your body and are a supportive food to include in your diet for a healthy life.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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