Blueberries are a true “superfood.” In addition to being absolutely delicious to eat, their deep blue color is the secret to their rich nutritional content. Blueberries are high in anthocyanin, a natural pigment that gives foods remarkable health benefits. Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit, and lots of fiber and Vitamin C. Together, these and other nutrients make blueberries one of the heathiest foods around.
What Are Blueberries?
Blueberries grow on a bush that’s in the same family as cranberries, as well as flowering shrubs including azaleas and rhododendrons. The fruit can range in size and color. All blueberries have a wax coating called a “bloom” that protects it from bugs and bacteria and seals in the fruit’s moisture. The fruit was first discovered in North America, where Native Americans enjoyed them for centuries before the European settlers arrived. Not only did the Indians believe that the fruit was sacred, but they also used them to treat coughs and other illnesses. Over 90% of the blueberries in the world come from North America, though they are now grown in other areas of the world as well.
Blueberries can be eaten raw or baked into foods. They can also be made into juices, jams and preserves, and can be frozen or dried.
1. Blueberries Are Loaded With Antioxidants and Other Nutrients
Blueberries may be tiny, but they are a nutritional giant. They are low in calories and have almost no fat and they’re high in antioxidants, which fight free radical damage. Like all dark-colored fruits, they have amazing health benefits. They are also loaded with fiber, Vitamin C, and the important mineral manganese. Just one cup includes:
Calories – 84
Fiber – 3.6 grams (14% of RDV)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – 85.8 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids – 130 mg
Protein – 1.1 grams
Vitamin K – 28.6 cg (36% of RDV)
Manganese – 0.5 mg (25% o RDV)
Vitamin C – 14.4 mg (24% of RDV)
Vitamin E – 0.8 mg (4% of RDV)
Thiamin – 0.1 mg (4% of RDV)
Riboflavin – 0.1 mg (4% of RDV)
Vitamin B6 – 0.1 mg (4% of RDV)
Copper – 0.1 mg (4% of RDV)
Niacin – 0.6 mg (3% of RDV)
Potassium – 114 mg (3% of RDV)
In addition to vitamins and minerals, blueberries contain compounds that offset the aging process, neutralize free radicals, stop the growth of cancer cells, reduce cholesterol, and have many other important health benefits.
2. Blueberries Top All Fruits in Antioxidant Levels
Antioxidants are compounds that stop and sometimes prevent oxidation of molecules in the body. They are found in fruits and vegetables, and they work to neutralize free radicals that cause illness. They fight cancer and cell damage caused by stress, lower cholesterol, and boost the immune system, and blueberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit. Lab studies showed that compounds in blueberries can cause colon cancer cell death.
The antioxidants found in blueberries include:
- Vitamin B-complex
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Bottom Line: Together, the antioxidants in blueberries build the immune system, prevent infections, and stop the damage that causes aging and disease.
3. Blueberries Help Reduce Belly Fat and Help with Weight Loss
Belly fat has been indicated as a risk factor in both metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Lab studies have shown that blueberries can help to cut down on the amount of abdominal fat in lab animals, as well as to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and improve insulin sensitivity. A diet high in blueberries yielded lower body weight and total fat mass, and even reduced liver mass in lab animals being fed a high-fat diet. Other studies have shown that blueberries may have an affect on the genes that regulate metabolism. All these benefits combine with blueberries’ low calories and high fiber to help you lose weight.
Bottom Line: Blueberries provides a healthy sweet snack whose low calories and high fiber help you achieve your weight loss goals while reducing serious health risks.
4. Blueberries Are Good for Your Urinary Tract and Your Digestive Tract
Blueberries contain compounds called polyphenols that stop urinary tract infections in their tracks. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that changes in the digestive system into a substance that binds iron in the urine. The iron keeps the bacteria called E. coli (which is responsible for most urinary tract infections) from growing.
The sweet fruit is also high in fiber. Eating a cup a day should help keep your digestive tract moving and prevent constipation
Bottom Line: If you are prone to getting urinary tract infections, eating more blueberries can help prevent the bacteria that causes them from entering the urinary tract system. They can also help prevent digestive problems, including constipation.
5. Blueberries Are Good for Your Vision
Blueberries have high levels of anthocyanosides, the natural pigment that gives them their deep blue color. Anthocyanosides have been shown to prevent or delay cataracts, macular degeneration, eye dryness and infections. They also contain vitamin C, which protects the eyes against damage to the eyes’ connective tissue, Vitamin A which prevents from free radical damage and inflammation, and zinc, which helps the eyes adjust in the dark.
Bottom Line: The nutrients in blueberries help prevent conditions and damage that can lead to loss of vision.
6. Blueberries Are Good for Your Brain’s Health
Blueberries contain a number of nutrients that help to prevent the death of brain cells and protect the central nerovous system. These nutrients include anthocyanin, vitamins A, B-complex, C and E, as well as minerals like zinc, potassium and copper. Studies have shown that blueberries can heal damaged brain cells, leading to a slowing of the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, and can show actual improvements to learning and memories in advanced age.
Bottom Line: Researchers say that blueberries help protect the brain from the stress caused by aging and environment and can help offset damage that has already been done.
7. Blueberries Are Good for Your Heart Health
The deep color of blueberries makes them chock full of antioxidants and polyphenols that stop inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease. One study that followed a group of women over 18 years found that those who ate the fewest blueberries were at the highest risk of heart attack while those who ate the most were 34% less likely to have a heart attack. Scientists think it’s the anthocyanins that make the difference. These potent flavonoids lower your bad cholesterol and fight the hardening of the arteries that often leads to heart attack. They also may lower blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Blueberries reduce all of the risk factors that contribute to heart damage and high risk of cardiovascular disease.
What You Need to Know About Buying Blueberries
Blueberries can be eaten raw on their own, mixed into salads and cereals, baked into desserts and breads, and made into sauces, juices, jams and jellies. When buying fresh blueberries look for the bloom, as it is an indication of freshness. Another good way to tell whether blueberries are fresh is to shake the container, as the more freely they move, the fresher they are likely to be.
Fresh blueberries are available year round, but they can also be purchased frozen or dried.