10 Health Benefits of Blueberries
Summer is here and fresh blueberries are abundant. Often labeled as a superfood, these sweet and tangy fruits are among the most nutrient dense berries and possess many health benefits. Blueberries have been shown to promote longevity, improve cognitive function, and fight DNA damage, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer and more. Continue reading to learn 10 health benefits of blueberries.
Nutrient value of blueberries
There are three varieties of blueberries:
- Rabbit eye
…and all are known to have benefits. One cup (148 grams) of blueberries contains:
- Calories: 85
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: .2 g
- Monounsaturated fat: .1 g
- Dietary fiber: 3.6 g (14% of the RDA)
- Protein: 1.1 g (2% of the RDA)
- Vitamin K: 36% of the RDA
- Manganese: 25% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 24% of the RDA
- Vitamin B-6: 5% of the RDA
- Copper: 4% of the RDA
In addition to these nutrients, blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses. They have a higher antioxidant value than almost any other food, making them great protectors against heart, brain, vision, age-related illnesses and many types of cancers.
One 3.5 ounce serving of blueberries provides the body with an antioxidant value equivalent of about FIVE servings of many fruits and veggies!
Blueberries are packed with powerful antioxidant phytonutrients called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are bioactive flavonoids that give foods like blueberries, eggplants and red cabbage their deep blue, red and purple hues. Aside from providing robust colors to fruits and veggies, anthocyanins also reduce inflammation and neutralize harmful free radical damage within the body, making blueberries highly beneficial in the fight against many chronic diseases.
Here are 10 health benefits of blueberries.
1. Lower your risk of neurological diseases
- Adding blueberries to your diet may ultimately decrease your risk for neurological disorders such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
- Blueberries are known as “neuro-protective agents” because they contain high levels of phenols, particularly gallic acid. This means that blueberries can protect our brains from degeneration, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress by slowing down age-related damage to brain cells.
- Consistent consumption of blueberries also increases levels of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter that enables the body to perform smooth, controlled movements and is responsible for efficient memory, attention, and problem-solving function.
2. Slow down aging
- Researchers have uncovered new data showing that the consumption of blueberry flavonoids is associated with longer life spans and slower aging.
- When it comes to anti-aging, the antioxidants found in blueberries help reverse free radical damage, reduce inflammation and protect against pathogens, thus allowing the body to age more healthfully and gracefully.
3. Improve blood sugar levels
- Although blueberries are listed at 40-53 on the glycemic index, they are still considered to be a low glycemic food.
- Studies have shown that blueberries have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in people with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.
- Large-scale human studies show that people with the highest blueberry intake are 23% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, one of the outcomes of metabolic syndrome.
- Studies show that blueberry extracts lower both systolic (top number) blood pressure and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome.
- A lower glycemic load combined with their high levels of fiber (roughly 4 grams per cup) allows blueberries to have a positive impact on blood sugar regulation.
4. Prevent cancer
- Clinical studies have discovered that, unlike radiation and chemotherapy strategies, gallic acid rich foods like blueberries can kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
- Blueberries also contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.
- Vitamins C, copper and phenolic compounds combine to make for a powerful antioxidant team that inhibit cancer cells from progressing.
- Some studies have shown that blueberries’ antioxidants may promote death of cancer cells.
5. Improve digestion and boost healthy gut bacteria
- Being a natural source of soluble and insoluble fiber, just eating a couple handfuls of blueberries a day can help regulate your gastrointestinal track. Soluble and insoluble fiber help relieve both diarrhea and constipation
- Vivian Chi-Hua Wu, a University of Maine researcher, has discovered that wild blueberries have pre-biotic potential, which promotes growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the colon and promotes digestive and health benefit. Wu states that, “Addition of wild blueberries to diet can alter the balance of gut microbe in favor of members of the Actinobacteria phylum.”
- Blueberries contain an antioxidant compound called pterostilbene that inhibits genes involved in inflammation, which is thought to be a risk factor for colon cancer.
6. Improve heart health and ward off heart disease
- People with the highest regular intake of blueberries have up to an 8% reduction in their risk for developing hypertension compared with those having the lowest intake.
- Blueberry extracts promote heart health by reducing blood levels of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Research shows this reduction can be as much as 12% and 15%, respectively and may help prevent heart disease.
- In blueberry-supplemented animals, triglyceride levels, (a potentially dangerous form of fat in the body), are lowered in the blood.
- The journal, Circulation, published a study showing that eating blueberries and strawberries together has an effect that actually decreases your risk of heart attack by up to 33%.
- The blueberry’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content all support heart health.
7. Strengthen eyes, benefit skin and smooth wrinkles
- The retina of the eye is very prone to oxidative stress. The anthocyanins in blueberries have been shown to protect the retina from unwanted oxygen damage as well as harm caused by sunlight.
- Properties found in blueberries have been shown to heal macular degeneration and improve vision, eye infections and eye fatigue.
- Just one cup of blueberries provides 24% of your daily need for vitamin C. Collagen, the skin’s support system, relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.
- Blueberries contain reservatrol, which has been proven to reduce skin damage from over-sun exposure and can naturally darken the skin.
8. Boost your immunity
- Blueberries are comprised of antibacterial and antiviral properties which ward off illness.
- Blueberries’ phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals such as vitamins C, A, E, B-complex, iron, selenium, copper and zinc work together to boost immunity and keep colds, infections and illness-causing free-radicals at bay.
- The antibacterial and antibiotic effect of blueberries has been shown to help prevent urinary tract infections by preventing the bacteria b-coli from building up on the wall of the urinary tract.
9. Maintain healthy bone density
- The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K in blueberries play a crucial role in building and maintaining bone strength and elasticity.
- Vitamin K found in blueberries improves calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss.
10. Promote weight loss and improve satiety
- Blueberries are low in calories, low on the glycemic index and high in dietary fiber – factors that contribute to losing weight and improving satiety. Dietary fiber is a bulking agent in the digestive tract. High fiber foods like blueberries increase satiety and reduce appetite, making you feel fuller for longer and thereby reducing overall caloric intake.
- Some of blueberries’ anti-obesity benefits come from their ability to block enzymes in the intestines that promote carbohydrate absorption.
- Blueberry flavonoids aid the body with weight management because once absorbed into he body, they slow the rate at which fat cells develop and multiply, and decrease the amount of fat stored by each cell.
Finding local, in-season blueberries is easy
Consuming in-season blueberries is ideal. Click on the article below for two online sources that will help you find local, fresh and in-season blueberries in your area:
Buy organic whenever possible
- Organic blueberries have more nutritional punch than their non-organic counterparts. A 2008 study found that organic blueberries contain more phenols, anthocyanins and ORAC antioxidant potency than conventional blueberries.
- To reduce your pesticide exposure, buy blueberries in their organic form whenever possible. Domestic blueberries are not on the EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce dirty dozen list, but they are ranked as #14.
Freeze during off-season; Snack year round
- Once harvested, blueberries can be placed in the freezer for consumption during off-season months.
- When organic blueberries go on sale at my local Whole Foods Market, I always buy extra to freeze so that I can eat them later. I love doing this because this ends up being less expensive than buying frozen blueberries during non summer months.
Blueberries may be small, but they are mighty. These super fruits should be part of your diet. They are nutritional powerhouses that possess numerous health benefits and should not be ignored…and they taste great!
Snack on blueberries raw, put them into smoothies, and add them to homemade pancakes, salads, oatmeal, yogurt, trail mix and desserts.
What do you think?
- Do you like blueberries?
- If so, how do you include blueberries in your diet?
- Did I miss any health benefits of blueberries that you would like to share?
- Bamboo Core Fitness, Jennifer Regan
- Cassidy A, et al. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation. 2013 Jan 15;127(2):188-96.
Evans, S. (2012, July 1). Blueberries Boost Longevity. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
- Maria D, et al. Gallic Acid and Related Compounds as Neuroprotective Agents: You are What You Eat! Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2014 Jun 16. [Epub ahead of print]
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report: 09050, Blueberries, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- Routray, W., & Orsat, V. (2011, July 28). Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins: Factors Affecting Biosynthesis and Properties. Retrieved April 28, 2015, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2011.00164.x/asset/j.1541-4337.2011.00164.x.pdf;jsessionid=C7A17B6E24D0A7FD36397206F84BA22F.f02t03?v=1&t=i91t50zj&s=8b25bbd3db6d487539ce83a6ef5b16d5bf5fca3b
- UMaine News. Blueberries Can Benefit Digestive Health, Says UMaine Researcher. Available at: https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2013/07/01/a-gut-response/
- Wu-yang Huang, et al. Survey of antioxidant capacity and phenolic composition of blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry in Nanjing. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. Feb 2012; 13(2): 94–102.
· Wang K, et al. Investigation of Gallic Acid Induced Anticancer Effect in Human Breast Carcinoma MCF-7 Cells. J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2014 May 27.
When she is not helping others to slay fat, build muscle, and live amazing lives, Jennifer can be found exploring the outdoors with her dogs, cooking, traveling and playing/coaching lacrosse. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.