Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients which have powerful health benefits. These include the ability to strengthen bones, reduce acne, lower blood pressure, control diabetes, and improve heart health. Considered a superfood, blueberries can also help prevent cancer, improve brain health, promote weight loss, and soothe inflammation.
What are Blueberries?
Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are tiny indigo-colored edible berries, which are sweet to taste. The blueberry plant is a perennial flowering shrub which grows in clusters, especially in North America. They are closely related to bilberries, cranberries, and grouseberries.
Blueberries are nutrient-dense, low in calories, and high in fiber. The berries are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, copper, and manganese. They are low in carbohydrates and sodium and are high in water content. They are also abundant in antioxidants, especially anthocyanin, which is responsible for their deep blue color and powerful health benefits. Blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants in them compared to all the foods!
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Let’s take a look at the powerful health benefits of blueberries.
Blueberries are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K, which help improve bone health. They also increase bone density and elasticity and contribute to maintaining the bone structure.
Anthocyanin in blueberries is responsible for preventing oxidative DNA damage, while the abundance of vitamin C is a big factor in building collagen. This is why blueberries prevent wrinkles, age spots, and acne. Additionally, they also prevent skin damage caused by dust, pollution, smoke, and UV rays.
Lower Bad Cholesterol
The high fiber content and abundant antioxidants in blueberries help dissolve the LDL (bad) cholesterol. This makes blueberries an ideal dietary supplement to cure many heart diseases, while also strengthening the cardiac muscles. They also contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which help in reducing blood pressure.
Protect Heart Health
Blueberries help in preventing atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. This is due to the presence of fiber, anthocyanin, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin C in them. Fiber and anthocyanin reduce cholesterol, improve blood fat, and prevent clogging of arteries. Vitamin B6 and folate prevent blood vessel damage by inhibiting homocysteine build up and potassium regulates working of heart muscles.
Blueberries can prove to be extremely valuable for cancer patients, as they contain certain compounds like pterostilbene (an excellent remedy for colon and liver cancer) and ellagic acid. These two in harmony with anthocyanin and other antioxidants like vitamin C and copper can do miracles to both prevent and cure cancer.
Improve Brain Function
The vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in blueberries can heal nervous disorders by preventing the degeneration and death of neurons. These essential nutrients also protect brain cells and help restore the health of the central nervous system. The berries can also cure serious problems like Alzheimer’s disease to a great extent. They can even heal damaged brain cells and neuron tissues to keep your memory sharp.
The high fiber content present in blueberries promotes digestion and weight loss. They also promote satiety, help you feel full, and reduce belly fat. One cup of blueberries contains only 15 g of carbohydrates and 84 calories. Thus, frozen or dried blueberries are great low-calorie snacks.
Rich in Antioxidants
The antioxidants along with other phytonutrients and flavonoids present in blueberries are responsible for the free radical scavenging activity in the body. The group of flavonoids, in particular, anthocyanin, prevents the body from all types of damage due to free radicals. This includes cellular structure damage, DNA damage, early aging, and various types of cancer.
The antioxidants in blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties. They reduce the activity of markers of inflammation. Thus, blueberries help prevent chronic inflammatory diseases including arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
Other benefits of blueberries include:
Flavonoid-rich wild blueberries help enhance mood and act as an effective antidepressant.
The roughage (fiber) present in blueberries prevent constipation. Also, the vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose, and acids improve digestion by stimulating secretion of correct gastric and digestive juices. This helps the food move smoothly through the gastrointestinal system.
Treat Urinary Tract Infection
Blueberries can kill bacterial colonies like E. coli which are responsible for the urinary tract infection. They have a compound formed of large, polymer-like molecules, which inhibit the growth of such bacteria. They also have certain antibiotic properties which add to this effect. So far, this compound has only been found in cranberries and blueberries.
Blueberries can prevent or delay all age-related ocular problems due to their antioxidant properties. These include macular degeneration, cataracts, myopia and hypermetropia, dryness, as well as infections pertaining to the retina. Blueberries contain special antioxidants called carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin etc.), flavonoids (like rutin, resveratrol, quercetin etc.), and other antioxidant compounds, which are all very beneficial for ocular health.
Antioxidants in blueberries can boost your immune system and prevent infections. Once your immune system is strong, you won’t catch colds, fever, pox, and countless other communicable diseases spread by bacteria and viruses.
Reduce Muscle Damage
Blueberries help promote hair growth. Mix blueberries and olive oil, apply the blend to hair and roots and rinse with warm water to enhance hair growth.
Blueberry husks consumed along with probiotics show potent anti-inflammatory properties which can cure inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. They can alleviate symptoms such as bleeding and pain caused by ulcerative colitis.
Polyphenols and resveratrol found in blueberries help increase longevity and decrease the adverse effects linked with aging. They also activate the genes involved in anti-aging and decreasing brain function decline.
Types of Blueberry
There are five major types of blueberry:
- Northern Highbush
- Southern Highbush
Uses of Blueberries
Blueberries could practically be an addition to any food to impart a sweet-tart taste. They could be used as toppings or be added to various dishes like over baked foods, oatmeal, yogurts, pancakes, smoothies or salads.
Select and Store
Here are a few tips to remember while buying and storing blueberries:
- Blueberries are available in fresh, frozen, and dried form.
- Frozen blueberries lose texture faster than fresh berries, but the flavor remains the same.
- Always select fresh firm blueberries as they are moisture free and last long
- Freeze and enjoy snacking them!
A few side effects of blueberries include:
- Blood-thinning: People taking blood-thinning medication (warfarin) or suffering from blood disorders (hemophilia) should avoid blueberries. The vitamin K content may interfere with the blood thinning and result in blood-clot.
- Allergy: Blueberries may cause food allergy like itching, swelling or difficulty in breathing.
- Blood sugar control: They may lower blood glucose levels, especially for diabetics.
Note: Avoid use before or after surgery as blueberries can interfere with blood sugar control.
A final interesting thing to know about blueberries is that the darker the color of the blueberries, the richer they are in antioxidants and other medicinal nutrients. In other words, eat them until your tongue turns blue in order to live a long and healthy life.