10 Benefits of Blueberries – Backed by Science
Blueberries are an amazing fruit, both in terms of flavour 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 antifungal 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.
Blueberries can help reverse the aging process.
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.
Adding blueberries to your diet can protect you from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
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.
The antioxidants in blueberries can be an effective tool in battling cancer.
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 neighbouring 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.
Blueberries have the most antioxidants by weight even amongst superfoods.
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%.
Blueberries can participate in the fight against cancer by reducing and preventing oxidative DNA damage.
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 you 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.
Blueberries are a useful tool for diabetics. They increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which in turn modulates blood sugar and helps maintain or prevent diabetes.
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.
Blueberries are one of the most valiant fighters against cardiovascular disease.
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.
Blueberries improve brain function.
8. 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 on 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 intaking 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.
Blueberries increase the rates of natural killer cells - the body’s defense against inflammation - and decrease oxidative stress indicated by F2 Isoprostanes.
9. 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.
Conclusion: A diet rich in blueberries can offset the balance of high-carbohydrate foods. Including blueberries can even prevent a high-carb diet from impacting blood sugar negatively.
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.
Regular consumption of blueberries supplies a healthy dose of anthocyanins. This can lead to prevention of oxidative damage in the retina.
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.
Contributed by Jen Miller: https://www.jenreviews.com/blueberries/.