Blueberries are a popular snack. Long considered a so-called super fruit, they look amazing with their plump appearance and blue hues. Did you know that, beyond tasting great, blueberries have several science-proven benefits? The advantages of consuming blueberries could mean improved overall health, including heart and cognitive health. After learning about blueberries' fantastic science-proven health benefits, you will want to run out and purchase some today.
Blueberries contain anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant, in the pigment of their deep blue and purple hue.
Blueberries are packed full of nutrients, including 25% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K and manganese.
Adding blueberries to your daily diet can improve your heart and brain health due to their powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Let's dive straight in the magical and sometimes underestimated health benefits of blueberries.
1. Provides essential nutrients
To start off, blueberries have four essential nutrients:
- Fiber. Important for regulating cholesterol, heart health, and bowel movements.
- Vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant essential for immunity; it also helps your body absorb iron.
- Vitamin K. Creates the proteins necessary for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Blueberries contain 25% of the recommended daily value (RDV).
- Manganese. Vital for bone health and transforming proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into energy. Blueberries contain 25% of the RDV.
An added plus is that blueberries are low in calories, with only 80 calories per cup of fresh or frozen blueberries. Additionally, they have almost no fat and are low in sodium.
2. Prevents inflammation
Blueberries are the richest source of anthocyanin, a flavonoid and powerful antioxidant. Anthocyanin is the bioactive pigment in a blueberry that gives it that deep blue or purple hue.
There are two types of blueberries in North America, highbush and lowbush. Lowbush blueberries have the highest amount of anthocyanin at 487 mg per 100 g. Still, highbush blueberries have a significant amount at 387 mg per 100 g.
Antioxidants such as anthocyanin are vital in protecting and counteracting the damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules causing oxidative stress to cells, leading to cellular damage.
Oxidative stress leads to inflammation and diminished cellular function. Prolonged inflammation leads to cellular aging and chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and cancer.
3. Supports heart health
Including blueberries in your diet is a must if you want to take proactive measures against heart disease. Blueberries are great for maintaining a healthy heart, partly due to their low sodium content, and they are an excellent source of fiber.
In addition, the antioxidant properties in blueberries also demonstrate benefits in reducing inflammation associated with heart disease. An article published in the Journal of Advanced Nutrition highlighted these cardiac advantages.
According to the journal article, they conducted a 12-week study on 150 people with elevated cholesterol. They consumed daily purified anthocyanin, and the results showed a reduction in inflammation and LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol).
Studies also show that blueberries may improve heart health by reducing blood pressure in people with diagnosed hypertension. A clinical study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed postmenopausal women with hypertension who ate blueberries for eight weeks had lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
4. Promotes cognitive health
Adding blueberries to your daily diet may boost cognitive performance and reduce the risk of developing cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
Research published in 2020 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the higher, long-term intake of anthocyanin flavanol in blueberries was linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other related dementia.
Another study followed a group that at blueberries daily for 12 weeks and showed improved brain activity, working memory, and overall cognitive performance.
The Nurses Health Study followed 16,000 women who regularly consumed blueberries and strawberries and showed a delay of cognitive decline by 2.5 years.
On the other end of the age spectrum, a randomized trial published in 2016 in the European Journal of Nutrition showed improved cognitive performance in children ages 7–10 who consumed wild blueberry powder in drink form.
5. Helps regulate blood sugar
A diet regularly containing blueberries may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Population studies show that the flavonoids in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of T2DM. Improved insulin sensitivity means your system's glucose (sugar) will be better regulated.
Since there is an association between obesity and an increased risk of developing T2DM in older adults, incorporating blueberry intake into your diet can help prevent weight gain.
A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods showed a decrease in BMI when a group of obese individuals substituted one serving of carbohydrate-rich fruit with one serving of blueberries over 12 weeks.
Tips on how to add blueberries to your diet
There are several ways to add blueberries to your daily diet. Ideally, fresh or frozen blueberries provide the highest amount of valuable antioxidants when added to your daily consumption.
You can also add dried organic blueberry powder to yogurt or a smoothie, but sometimes the process of drying the fruit will reduce the amount of available flavonoids.
- Smoothies. Use frozen berries, yogurt, and your choice of milk, almond milk, or water with protein powder to make a refreshing and nutritious drink. Add other fruit, such as bananas or mangos, to liven it up more!
- Salad. Add blueberries to your salad, along with some pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds for added taste, texture, and fiber.
- Baking. Throw in some blueberries to bread, muffins, pancakes, or cake mix to add flavor and color to your baked goods! Blueberry pie is also a delectable indulgence.
- Toppings. Add fresh blueberries to yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal to liven your breakfast!
Numerous studies outline the health benefits of increasing blueberries in your diet. Research is ongoing, so stay tuned for possible health benefits like better vision and digestion. While not the cure-all for every ailment, there are definite advantages to adding blueberries to your daily diet. The taste is remarkable, they look great, and the health benefits are endless.
- Advances in Nutrition. Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins.
- The British Journal of Nutrition. Association of flavonoid-rich foods and flavonoids with risk of all-cause mortality.
- Clinical Interventions in Aging. Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Long-term dietary flavonoid intake and risk of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.
- European Journal of Nutrition. Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1 hypertension: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
- Journal of Functional Foods. Investigation of the impact of blueberries on metabolic factors influencing health.