A whole lot of us eat Blueberries as it is a popular fruit in so many countries. But then how many of us know the advantages of eating this tasty fruit? In this article, we take a cursory look at some of the advantages of eating Blueberries.
Blueberries are they are low in calories and incredibly good for you. They are sweet, nutritious and wildly popular. Many people consider them to be their favorite fruit because they so tasty and convenient.
Let us take a look at some health benefits of blueberries that are supported by research.
The blueberry is a flowering shrub that produces berries that are colored blue to purple, also known as blueberries.
It is strongly related to similar shrubs, such as those that produce cranberries and huckleberries.
Blueberries are small, around 5-16 millimeters (0.2-0.6 inches) in diameter, and have a flared crown at the end.
They are green in color at first, then change to blue-purple as they ripen.
These are the two most common types:
- Highbush blueberries are the most commonly grown species in the US.
- Lowbush blueberries are often referred to as “wild” blueberries. They are typically smaller and richer in some antioxidants.
Blueberries are among the most nutrient dense berries. They are also about 85% water, and an entire cup contains only 84 calories, with 15 grams of carbohydrates. Calorie for calorie, this makes them an excellent source of several important nutrients.
They protect our bodies from damage by free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cellular structures and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer (2, 3).
Blueberries are believed to contain the highest antioxidant capacity of ALL commonly consumed fruits and vegetables (4, 5, 6).
The main antioxidant compounds in blueberries belong to a large family of polyphenols, called flavonoids.
One group of flavonoids in particular, anthocyanins, is thought to be responsible for much of the beneficial health effects (7).
They have been shown to directly increase antioxidant levels inside the body (8, 9)
DNA damage is part of the reason we grow older, and it also plays an important role in the development of diseases like cancer (11).
Because blueberries are high in antioxidants, they can help neutralize some of the free radicals that cause damage to our DNA.
In one 4-week study, 168 participants were instructed to drink 1 liter (34 ounces) of a mixture of blueberry and apple juice, every day.
At the end of the study, oxidative DNA damage due to free radicals was reduced by 20% (12).
These findings have also been supported by smaller studies using either fresh or powdered blueberries (13, 14).
Oxidative damage is not limited to our cells and DNA.
It is also problematic when our circulating LDL lipoproteins (the “bad” cholesterol) are oxidized. In fact, oxidation of LDL is a crucial step in the heart disease process. Fortunately for us, the antioxidants in blueberries are strongly linked to reduced levels of oxidized LDL (15).
A daily 50 gram serving of blueberries lowered LDL oxidation by 27% in obese participants, after a period of eight weeks (16).
Another study showed that 75 grams of blueberries with a main meal significantly reduced the oxidation of LDL lipoproteins (17.
In one study, obese individuals at a high risk for heart disease noted a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure, after consuming 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of blueberries per day, for eight weeks (18).
Other studies have found similar effects, especially when looking at post-menopausal women (19, 20).
Given that high blood pressure is one of the leading drivers of heart attacks and strokes, the implications of this are potentially massive.
However, it’s important to realize that these are risk factors, not actual diseases. What we really want to know is whether blueberries help prevent hard end points like heart attacks, which are the world’s biggest killer (21).
In a 2013 study on 93,600 nurses, eating plenty of anthocyanins (the main antioxidants in blueberries) was linked to a 32% lower risk of heart attacks (22). This was an observational study, so it can not prove that the blueberries caused the reduction in risk, but it seems likely given the known beneficial effects on risk factors.
According to animal studies, the antioxidants in blueberries tend to accumulate in areas of the brain that are essential for intelligence (23, 24).
They appear to directly interact with aging neurons, leading to improvements in cell signalling. Human studies have also shown promising results.
In one of these studies, 9 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment consumed blueberry juice every day. After 12 weeks, they had seen improvements in several markers of brain function (25).
A six year study of 16,010 elderly participants found that blueberries and strawberries were linked to delays in cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years (26).
One cup contains 15 grams, which is equivalent to a small apple or large orange. However, the bioactive compounds in blueberries appear to outweigh any negative impact of the sugar when it comes to blood sugar control.
Research suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries can have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. These anti-diabetic effects have been shown with both blueberry juice and extract (27, 28, 29).
In a study of 32 obese subjects with insulin resistance, a blueberry smoothie caused major improvements in insulin sensitivity (30).
Improved insulin sensitivity should lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, which are currently some of the world’s biggest health problems.
It is well known that cranberry juice can help prevent these types of infections.
Blueberries are highly related to cranberries, and contain many of the same active substances as cranberry juice. These substances are called anti-adhesives, and help prevent bacteria like E. coli from binding to the wall of the bladder.
Blueberries haven’t been studied much for this purpose, but chances are that they have similar effects as cranberries (32).
Strenuous exercise can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue.
This is driven, in part, by local inflammation and oxidative stress in the muscle tissue (33).
Blueberry supplementation may reduce the damage that occurs at the molecular level, minimizing soreness and reduction in muscle performance. In a small study of 10 female athletes, blueberries accelerated muscle recovery after strenuous leg exercises.