Blueberries are one of the best-tasting and most nutritious fruits you can eat. You may not like to eat some foods that are good for you, like kale or soy, but it’s not hard to convince anyone to eat fruit as inviting as a blueberry. Low in sugar and high in fiber, these tiny berries contain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to keep you healthy and even increase your lifespan.
These berries are often used as an ingredient in sweet pies, cakes or snacks, but they taste great fresh, without any sugar to cover them. You’ll get plenty of benefits by adding this fruit to your daily diet, from more brainpower to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cancer.
A Berry with Lots of Vitamins and Antioxidants
One cup of blueberries has 84 calories and a low glycemic index. It has 3.6 grams of dietary fiber, 1.1 grams of protein, 21.4 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of fat. A cup of this fruit also contains copper, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese, and Vitamin K, but its primary health benefits come from antioxidant phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are natural chemicals found in plants. They aren’t necessary to keep you alive like vitamins and minerals, but they will help prevent disease and make you healthier. If you’ve ever wondered what are blueberries good for besides making a delicious pie for dessert are, phytonutrients are a good place to start.
The Phytonutrient Pterostilbene
You’ve probably heard about the anti-inflammatory benefits of the phytonutrient resveratrol, which is found in red wine. Resveratrol is found in other foods, including berries, in smaller amounts. This phytonutrient belongs to a group of antioxidant compounds called stilbenoids.
Raw blueberries contain several stilbenoids, most notably one called pterostilbene. Studies show that pterostilbene has anti-inflammatory properties like resveratrol, but it can also protect your cells against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Once your body absorbs pterostilbene, it stays in your body five times longer than many other nutrients before metabolizing into other substances. This process may give it more time to provide you with disease-fighting benefits.
A study conducted at the University of Mississippi Medical Center found that the stilbenes reduced high blood pressure in a clinical trial involving 80 patients with high cholesterol.
Organic blueberries nutrition may even be higher than the store-bought kind, and the same goes for wild berries. Research in the British Journal of Nutrition showed subjects who received wild blueberry powder experienced an increased serum antioxidant level of 8.5 percent after one hour.
A Fruit for Better Mental and Physical Health
Blueberry health benefits extend to your mental as well as your physical well-being. There are many antioxidants in this small berry that offer protection against cancer, diabetes, dementia, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. You will need to eat the fruit every day (or at least a few times a week) to reap these benefits.
Improves Memory and Concentration
A decline in motor behavior and balance as we age can cause poor quality of life. A study by the USDA along with other organizations showed that eating blueberries can improve the balance and coordination people lose as they age. For eight weeks, researchers fed blueberry, strawberry or spinach extracts to 19-month old rats (the equivalent of a 65-70-year-old human). All the extracts improved the rats’ short-term memory, but only the blueberry extract improved coordination and balance.
Using blueberry vinegar in your salads may prevent dementia. A Korean study showed that mice with amnesia regained their memory after being fed the flavoring. This salad dressing seems to stop the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter in your brain and body. When acetylcholine declines, it can cause memory loss and dementia.
Drugs used to stop acetylcholine from degrading may have harmful side effects, while blueberry vinegar is safe. While studies on humans have yet to be conducted, sprinkling some blueberry vinegar on your salad will make it taste better and may even boost your brain power.
Has Anti-Cancer Properties
The phytonutrients in this power-packed fruit work overtime to inhibit the spread of cancer. A 2007 study showed that blueberry juice from low bushes reduced the growth of cancer cells in the stomach, breast, prostate and intestine. Another study, conducted in 2010, indicated that blueberry extract prevented the growth of breast cancer cells.
Regular consumption of berries has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and gastrointestinal tract cancer, but it may help prevent liver, lung, pancreatic and prostate cancer, although the effects aren’t as dramatic.
You can amp up the cancer-fighting effects of your diet by including green tea, spinach, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, and other berries in your meals every day.
Promotes Heart Health
A study conducted at Oklahoma State University showed that eating this berry reduced cardiovascular risk factors in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome.( Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that may lead to stroke, heart disease or diabetes. The conditions include abdominal obesity, fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater, and a triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater.)
A study at the University of East Anglia in England showed that anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid in berries, may reduce heart attack risk in young and middle-aged women by 32 percent.
Eat this fruit, along with other berries, for a healthier heart. (Other foods to promote better heart function include kale, oranges, lentils, sardines, and almonds.) The fruit should be unprocessed (with no sugar or preservatives) for best results. Sugar and artificial ingredients in cakes and pastries diminish the natural antioxidants in the berries – and add calories.
A blueberry has so many antioxidants that regular consumption of this fruit can reduce the oxidative stress that damages cells. It can help prevent or repair injured DNA and decrease the likelihood of an individual developing cancer or other life-threatening diseases.
This super fruit has 32% of the daily value of Vitamin K. Although Vitamin K isn’t one of the more glamorous and well-publicized nutrients out there, it is necessary for sufficient blood clotting – and it may prolong your life. One study on Vitamin K intake showed that people at risk for cardiovascular disease were 36% less likely to die from any cause if they consumed a high amount of Vitamin K when compared with participants who had a low intake of the vitamin.
Vitamin K has 16 Gla-proteins, which protect arteries from calcifying and guard against cancer and diabetes. Getting more Vitamin K, from berries, other foods or supplements can help prevent many other diseases, including osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer.
The fiber and water in berries will keep your gastrointestinal track running smoothly. Don’t rely on laxatives when you have trouble going to the bathroom. Eat more fiber-rich foods, including oatmeal, lentils, almonds, broccoli, and pears. Staying regular will also give you more energy and help you shed a few pounds. When you’re constipated, your system is sluggish and the “back-up” results in weight gain.
Smoothies, Dinners, and Snacks
Buy fresh blueberries to snack on between meals, or use them to make delicious smoothies. A simple banana blueberry smoothie takes only five minutes to make. (The recipe calls for frozen berries, but you can use fresh ones.) The banana adds Vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium and potassium to the mix.
Combine two superfoods in a Blueberry-Kale Smoothie. Don’t worry – the berries will mask the bitter taste of the kale, and you’ll still get all the Vitamin E, iron, folate and Vitamin C the veggie has to offer. This smoothie will give you a blast of Vitamin K, as both ingredients contain an abundance of the nutrient.
Whip up an extra-healthy dinner featuring Salmon Tacos with Blueberry Habanero Salsa. (Salmon has plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids to promote heart health and cognitive function.)
Instead of buying Danishes or cheesecake at the store, make your own blueberry snacks. Blueberry-Pecan Granola and Blueberry-Coconut Yogurt Pie provide all the antioxidant benefits of this fruit without the sugar or the expense.
Lose Weight with Blueberries
The fiber in berries fills you up faster and keeps you from overeating. One serving accounts for 14 percent of your daily fiber needs. A study done on obese rats at the Cardiovascular Center and the Michigan Integrative Medicine Program showed that blueberry intake reduced belly fat.
Add berries to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal or mix them in with yogurt. This low-energy density food will satisfy you without tacking on too many calories to your daily total, and you’ll get all the benefits of Vitamin K, antioxidant phytonutrients, and fiber. A blueberry contains 83 percent water, so it will keep you hydrated and count toward your total water intake for the day.
Pop one berry in your mouth at a time instead of eating spoonful’s. You’ll eat less and enjoy the taste more. This practice is called mindful eating. You’ll become more aware of how and when you eat, and you’ll learn to control your appetite without resorting to crash diets.