Blueberries are an amazing fruit, both in terms of flavor and their incredible nutritional profile. They're jam-packed with antioxidants – polyphenols, catechins, flavonols – along with lots of essential vitamins and nutrients.
Blueberries are actually rated at a 9,621 on the ORAC scale. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) measures the efficacy of a certain food or herb on preventing oxidation. This makes them one of the highest scoring foods in terms of antioxidants in the entire world.
A cup of blueberries also includes the following nutrients:
- Manganese (25 percent of your daily value)-This trace mineral helps promote the production of healthy bones, along with keeping blood pressure regulated.
- Fiber (14 percent of your daily value)-Fiber is very important. It is digested differently than other nutrients – it remains largely unchanged until it hits the large intestine, where the intestinal flora consume it and release compounds that benefit our bodies.
- Copper (9 percent of your daily value)-Copper is a mineral crucial in developing healthy tissues and maintaining healthy blood flow.
- Vitamin K (32 percent of your daily value)-Vitamin K is responsible for helping prevent your blood from clotting, along with ensuring your bones are strong. Those deficient in vitamin K have a higher frequency of fractures.
- Vitamin C (19 percent of your daily value)-Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps promote the immune system.
Of particular note, blueberries also contain a compound known as gallic acid. Gallic acid has been researched extensively. Strangely, though, most people – even health nuts – haven't heard of it before. Gallic acid is one of the most powerful anti-fungal and antioxidant agents you can find in natural foods.
1. Blueberries can fight against aging
Blueberries are particularly high in a certain type of antioxidant, known as proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are known to be potent anti-inflammatory agents. Inflammation is one of the most common causes of diseases, and can leads to things as simple as muscle stiffness or soreness, to fibromyalgia, diabetes, and cancer.
Blueberries antioxidant capacity also helps fight against diseases you might already have. They can reverse the aging process in a number of ways, by eliminating free radicals in the skin and other organs, to making your skin look healthy.
2. Blueberries protect you from neurodegenerative disease
Blueberries are neuroprotective agents, largely because of their massive antioxidant content. The compound mentioned earlier – gallic acid – is of particular importance in helping improve neural function.
Blueberries help prevent cognitive decline and the development of certain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. They do this by preventing oxidation of cells in the brain, allowing them to degenerate slower.
3. Blueberries can help fight cancer
Some studies have determined that regular blueberry consumption can actually kill cancer cells. On top of that, it does it without harming other cells! Again, the strongest contender for its anti-cancer benefits in blueberries is gallic acid. Resveratrol is another important compound in the cancer reduction process.
Studies have shown that blueberries can even completely destroy breast cancer! It's no wonder gallic acid has been studied so much – it has proved itself to be an extremely powerful medicinal compound.
4. Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other food
That's right. Blueberries have been studied and analyzed, and are currently rated as the food with the most antioxidants by weight. This is truly impressive – especially when you consider how amazingly delicious blueberries are.
Antioxidants are important because they prevent and eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron in their outer shell – and they're bad because that atom will steal electrons from its neighboring atoms. This causes a chain reaction that leads to diseases, including cancer.
The antioxidants in blueberries have a huge number of beneficial effects on the body. They help it stay young, they prevent diseases of both the brain and the body, and they help your organs function better.
5. Blueberries can reverse DNA damage
This means it can help fight against aging and cancer in a unique way.
Oxidative damage occurs in our cells on a daily basis. Oxidation is largely the reason human beings grow old, wither, and eventually die. (Hence why antioxidants are such a hot topic these days.)
Oxidized DNA leads to mutations, which will eventually lead to cancer. Drinking whole blueberry juice, or eating the berries fresh or frozen, will decrease oxidative DNA damage. This particular study says that regular blueberry consumption can decrease the chance of damage by 20%.
6. Blueberries can help increase your body's insulin sensitivity.
A study published in 2010 in the Nutrition Journal observes that blueberries can improve insulin sensitivity in the obese folk who have shown to be insulin resistance. This implies that blueberry consumption can help fight against diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It helps the body metabolize carbohydrates properly, and prevents blood sugar from rising too high. Without enough insulin – or, if your body's desensitized to it from eating too many carbs – your blood sugar will escalate. Increasing sensitivity to insulin can combat high blood sugar and thus prevent diabetes.
The study – a double-blind, randomized trial, involving 30 obese people – gave the obese folk 22.5 grams of blueberries mixed into a smoothie daily. This is approximately equivalent to 2 cups of raw blueberries.
The control group consumed a smoothie with the same ingredients, minus the blueberries. The group consuming blueberries showed significantly more improvement in their insulin sensitivity.
7. Blueberries are a vast source of cardiovascular benefits
The many antioxidants in blueberries affect nearly every system in the body. One of the most well-studied aspects of their benefit is that which helps the cardiovascular system. Blueberries boast a truly incredible list of cardiovascular benefits – more than most other fruits and vegetables in the world. Many fruits and vegetables offer slight benefits to even more threats, but blueberries effectively fight a lot of illnesses.
- This means they lower LDL cholesterol (LDL cholesterol is the bad kind. It can oxidize and turn cancerous, while simultaneously causing other cholesterol to become cancerous) and raise HDL cholesterol (this is the good kind, that your body uses to transport fats.) This helps the blood transport nutrients throughout the body more efficiently, leading to an overall improvement in health.
Blueberries prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing.
- Not only does it reduce the total levels of LDL cholesterol in your body, but blueberries can have a protective effect on the LDL cholesterol that you do have – butchering the chance of your arteries getting clogged. This also greatly reduces the chance of getting heart cancer, or other cancers caused by cardiovascular problems.
Antioxidants in blueberries help strengthen the cell walls of the cardiovascular system
- Blueberries have another weapon in their arsenal that fights against cancer. Blueberries strengthen the cell walls in the cardiovascular system. This means that the whole system will be better protected against oxidation and other threats that could lead to disease.
Blueberries help the body absorb and transport nutrients from other food
- The combination of these benefits allows for your blood to transport all antioxidants more efficiently, leading to a greater, more wholesome benefit from any other nutritious food that you include in your daily diet. They even raise the maximum capacity for your body to absorb antioxidants.
Blueberries help decrease and regulate blood pressure.
- This further allows for better flow of antioxidants and nutrients, prevents cholesterol build up, and generally helps the body function better. Blueberries also can prevent blood glucose spikes by improving the body's response to insulin. This means that your body can move nutrients better – not just the nutrients from blueberries, but those from other healthy foods you eat.
Blueberries help increase the production of endogenous NOS (nitric oxide synthase.)
- Endogenous NOS is different than typical nitric oxide synthase, which is typically associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease. Endogenous NOS is more commonly associated with a better functioning cardiovascular system. This is possibly responsible for blueberries having an amazing effect in so many ways on the cardio system.
8. Blueberries have been shown to make your brain function better
Everyone wants to have a brain that operates at its maximum efficiency. There has been a whole class of 'smart drugs,' also known as nootropics, that are marketed specifically with the intention to make people smarter. Some of these nootropics are based off of antioxidants – which makes the antioxidant profile of blueberries even more exciting.
Blueberries have been shown to increase cognitive function in both rats and humans. A lot of this neuroprotective benefit is suspected to be from the antioxidants present in blueberries. They prevent the oxidization of not only cells in the rest of the body, but in the brain as well. This ensures that your neurons are able to fire and communicate effectively, and will not age as fast. Blueberry supplementation can help prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease!
Blueberries have also been shown to improve memory. A study was conducted, with a study group consuming blueberries on a daily basis, and a control group consuming a placebo berry drink. The group that consumed blueberries showed positive increases in paired associate learning and word recall.
Paired associate memory is a type of evaluation that involves the pairing of a stimulus and a response. Oftentimes, both the stimulus and the response are words. For example, the stimulus could be the word "blueberry" and the response could be "healthy." When the subject receives the stimulus, they are evaluated on how quickly they can provide the proper response.
The study also linked regular blueberry consumption to a decrease in depression.
9. Blueberries can help your body fight inflammation and related diseases
Blueberries are shown to reduce inflammation. This is a great benefit, since a whole lots of disease are caused by inflammation and the related complications.
In this study done on the anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries, 25 athletes were studied. They were split into two groups. One group was given 250 grams of blueberries daily and told to hold back from eating other supplements or foods high in antioxidant vitamins like vitamins C and E. The other group was told to keep their diet the same.
Participants were tested after the study period came to a close, with one more task. The group who had been eating blueberries was given a final sample of 375 grams. The other group, of course, was not. The entire group of participants was then asked to go for a two and a half hour run.
Intense exercise is a breeding ground for oxidative stress. Makes sense – your body's in taking a lot more oxygen than it does otherwise. The researchers were looking for changes to certain markers that indicate oxidation and inflammation.
- F2 Isoprostanes indicate oxidative stress and can measure the rate of oxidation. The F2 isoprostanes increased 129% in the control group, but less than half in the study group – only 59%!
- During three separate blood tests, the blueberry study group had increased amounts of natural killer cells as much as 120% more than the control group. Natural killer cells are the body's natural defensive response to inflammation.
These two things alone indicate that blueberries can have a potent effect on reducing inflammation – particularly when consumed before stressful or high-intensity activity.
10. Blueberries have a significant impact on blood sugar
This is important enough to have its own section.
Blueberries can have a huge impact on regulating blood sugar. Considering blueberries are fairly high in sugar, one might find it strange that they are considered to have a low glycemic index. (The glycemic index is a scale used to evaluate how much of an impact certain foods have on your blood sugar.) They are actually rated high on the glycemic index, but their effects on blood sugar allow them to be considered low-glycemic foods.
Confused? The combination of the blueberry's ability to improve sensitivity to insulin, and to regulate the metabolization of carbohydrates, is the answer. While blueberries are high in sugar, they are also high in antioxidants that help to lower blood sugar. Studies have been done to show that including blueberries in a low-glycemic diet will continue to help your blood sugar drop.
10. Blueberries can help your eyes function better
The retina of the eyeball is susceptible to oxidative damage. It's a vulnerable tissue and can be damaged easily by inflammation or infections. Retina damage means vision damage – keeping your retina healthy is crucial to maintaining your eyesight into late age.
Fortunately, blueberries are loaded with a certain type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins – a certain type of phytonutrient. Phytonutrients are commonly studied for their benefits in preventing eye damage. Furthermore, they seem to demonstrate some protective activity against damage done by the UV rays emitted by the sun.
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can possibly eat>
While the range of medicinal benefits that blueberries provide may not be as vast as that of other foods, these benefits have been conclusively studied to pack a much more significant punch than that of other foods. The blueberry is incredibly densely packed with nutrients and antioxidants, allowing it to provide stronger effects than comparable fruits and vegetables.
With a range of benefits spanning from prevention of cancer, to helping you see better, to making you smarter – who wouldn't want to include blueberries in their diet? It's one of the tastiest ways to maximize your body's absorption of antioxidants and nutrients.
Some might grow tired of chomping blueberries down by the handful (though many certainly wouldn't.) While raw blueberries maintain the most undamaged antioxidants and vitamins, they're so high in both that cooking with them still provides a whopping amount of health benefits.
Adding blueberries into your diet is guaranteed to make you feel better. Your blood will flow better, your brain will function smoother, and your body will make better use of the other food you're consuming. Without further ado, here are some recipes that can help you implement blueberries into your life.
3 Delicious Blueberry Recipes
Now that you're well educated in the amazing medicinal benefits of blueberries, you'll want to know how to incorporate them into your diet. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to just shovel handfuls of blueberries into your mouth (though this isn't a bad alternative.)
Blueberries can be made into amazing desserts, delectable sauces, used in entrees or as garnishes, and make a great addition to breakfasts like cereal, or blueberry jam on toast. Here's a couple tips for quick preparations of blueberries that you can whip up when you're feeling like having a fix of blueberries.
- Add blueberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal. The low-calorie, high-nutrient fruit will pack a punch that'll keep you going until mid-afternoon.
- Blueberry jam can be made by simply crushing up blueberries and letting them sit in some sugar. Mind you, this simple jam needs to be used quickly – it can even be made as-needed. Spread it on your toast in the mornings!
- Dried blueberries make a great addition to trail mix, adding the energy of antioxidants to the already nutrient dense mixture of nuts and seeds.
- Blueberries make almost any milkshake or smoothie taste better. Throw a handful into your morning power shake, or mix some into a banana smoothie for an extra level of flavor.
- Blending blueberries by themselves with a touch of stevia can make an instantaneous sorbet – nutritious and absolutely delicious. It almost feels like it should be unhealthy – but it's as far from unhealthy as a sorbet can be.
- Crushed blueberries added to water can add some antioxidants to your H20, keeping you hydrated and healthy in a tasty way. A nice, sweet alternative to lemon water.
- Adding blueberries to yogurt or ice cream adds a whole bunch of nutrients. Turn your ice cream into a healthy treat, or bolster your yogurt and make it even better for you.
For the more adventurous types, there are an endless number of appetizers, entrees, and desserts that can be made with – or with the addition of – blueberries. Here's a few of my favorite recipes to get you started down the wonderful road of blueberry consumption. I've tried to include enough recipes to make a full course meal – main dishes, some salads, and desserts!
A good recipe to start off – this one you can slather on whatever you like. It works well as a replacement for cranberry sauce on turkey, it can be used in place of jam on toast. You can drown your pancakes with it. It even works as a topping for ice cream! Fresh or frozen blueberries make this meal equally as delicious, so you can use your stored blueberries for this one. It's a quick prep and quick cook time, so you can't go wrong with this one.
- 2 cups of blueberries. They can be from the freezer or fresh.
- 1/4 cup of water.
- 1 cup of orange juice. (We like Uncle Matt's.)
- 3/4 of a cup of white sugar or sugar alternative
- 3 tbps of organic corn starch
- 1/4 cup of water.
- 1/2 tsp of almond extract
- 1/8 tsp of cinnamon
Grab a saucepan. Put in the blueberries, your quarter cup of water (make sure it's cold), orange juice, and sugar. Over medium heat, stir gently until the ingredients are brought to a boil.
Next, mix the corn starch and another quarter cup of cold water in a bowl. Slowly mix this in with the blueberries, being careful not to squish them. Simmer the mixture until it's thickened – it should stick to a metal spoon when it's ready for the next step. That'll take less than five minutes.
Take your sauce off the element. Mix the almond extract and cinnamon in with it. If you find the sauce too thick, you can add more water.
After this, your sauce is ready! You can wait for it to cool or use it as-is.
This salad is good for an appetizer. It's got a quick prep time and an amazing flavor. The nuts blend with the sweetness of the blueberries and the bitter greens to combine into a different, but undeniably delectable, taste. The nuts are a powerhouse of antioxidants, which will be complemented by the blueberries and their ability to help the body absorb nutrients. The greens, of course, are dense with vitamins. The chicken and the nuts together will give you a good dose of protein. In short – this salad's great for you!
This recipe makes enough to serve eight, and only takes around fifteen minutes!
- Two organic boneless chicken breasts of around eight ounces, preferably skinless
- A clove of garlic
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of cracked pepper
- 1 cup of pecans
- 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup of white balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 2 tbsp of poppy seeds
- 6 ounces of arugula
- 6 ounces of spinach
- 2 cups of blueberries – fresh, not frozen
- 1/2 cup of blue cheese / feta cheese – your choice
Heat up your grill or a grilling pan, on med-high.
Season the chicken with garlic and half of your salt and pepper. Grill it until a thermometer gives a reading of 165 degrees internally. This should take about fifteen minutes – around eight minutes per side. When it's cooked, put it aside to cool.
Now, heat your oven to 375 fahrenheit. Evenly distribute your pecans on a cookie sheet and bake them until the scent begins rising from the oven. This should take no longer than seven minutes.
While the pecans are baking, whisk the balsamic vinegar with the honey, your Dijon mustard, and the rest of your salt and pepper. Keep mixing, slowly adding olive oil to the bowl. When the olive oil's added, stir the poppy seeds in. Put aside for now.
Shred the chicken. Using two forks is an effective way to do this.
In a big bowl, add the arugula and spinach. Toss them with about half of your vinaigrette.
Top the salad with your cooked chicken, the blueberries, your cheese (crumble it first,) and the baked pecans. Give it a gentle toss. If there's vinaigrette leftover, save it for use on a different recipe.
What would this list be if I didn't include a blueberry pie recipe? There's a reason that the iconic image of pies cooling on the windowsill in summer is so popular – because pies are awesome. Blueberry pie is a classic that tastes great and also happens to be great for you. The blueberries help to raise your body's sensitivity to insulin, which, in turn, ensures that your blood sugar doesn't spike from the carbohydrates. This recipe tastes best with fresh picked berries, but store bought ones were almost as well. There aren't a lot of ingredients required, and the prep time is quick.
You will need:
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3 tbsp of organic corn starch
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 4 cups of blueberries
- One pre-made, nine inch double-crust pastry
- 1 tbsp of butter
First, preheat your oven to 425 fahrenheit.
While the oven's preheating, mix your sugar, starch, salt, and ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture on top of your blueberries.
Put your pie crust in an empty pie dish and pour the blueberry mixture into it. Add butter, dotting the pie. Cut the pie into half to three-quarter inch strips, and lattice it. Crimp and flute the edges.
Bake the pie on the bottom shelf. It shouldn't take more than fifty minutes, but if the crust is golden before then, it's done.
Choosing and storing your blueberries for maximum benefit
There are two main types of blueberries that are available on the market.
- Highbush blueberries, or Vaccinium corymbosum: these blueberries are the most commonly available ones. They grow naturally in North America, as well as Asia and New Zealand.
- Lowbush blueberries, or Vaccinium angustifolium: These are sometimes known as wild blueberries. They have a higher antioxidant profile than highbush blueberries, and are a little more expensive. They're also much harder to find. These ones only grow in central to eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
Obviously, if you're looking for nutrition, you'll want to find yourself some lowbush blueberries. Chances are you won't be able to find them at your local supermarket, though – so highbush blueberries might be your only choice.
Here's a few tips for storage and preparation to ensure that your blueberries maintain the maximum.
- Blueberries can be frozen with minimal damage to their nutrients. This will, however, affect their flavor and texture. They lose a lot of their firmness when they're thawed.
- Make sure not to wash your blueberries until right before you eat them. This will make them degrade faster and effect the texture.
- If you buy your blueberries fresh, there's likely a couple that are about to go bad. Remove these ones before storing them, lest they spoil the rest of your berries.
- Refrigerating berries will keep them safe without changing the texture or consistency like freezing them will – obviously, though, they won't last as long.
Tips for preparing your blueberries
Since this article contains some great recipes that use blueberries, it's only natural to include a short section on how to prepare them for maximum benefit. Here's a few tips:
- Berries are super fragile! Wash them, but wash them gently, and only wash them right before using them in recipes.
- You only need to pat them dry if they are organic.
- Make sure you thaw frozen blueberries before using them in any recipes that call for blueberries – unless otherwise stated.
Blueberries are not only a powerful source of a seemingly endless list of nutrients – they taste great! It's hard to believe a superfood like blueberries even exists, compared to the tart taste of other superfoods like kale. They're much richer than goji berries, and comparable – if not better – in their medicinal value.
Blueberries may not have as wide of a range of medicinal benefits as some foods. However, blueberries have proven time and time again that they are more effective at treating and preventing the diseases that their antioxidants target. This makes them a priceless resource in your arsenal of health-healing foods.
Highbush blueberries are available year-round, but they are best purchased between April and September. Lowbush blueberries pack more of a nutritional punch, but they're not as readily available and are slightly more expensive – however, highbush blueberries are still incredibly healthy.
Anyone looking to improve their dietary health should consider adding blueberries to at least a few meals out of the week. They'll not only help you feel better, but they'll help your body absorb more nutrients from the other food that you eat. If you're a health-conscious person, you'll want to put them in your meal plan.
This article originally appeared on Jen Reviews.