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Blueberries have superfood status for good reason. Bursting with flavor, these berries offer benefits far beyond their delightful taste. From reducing inflammation to sharpening cognitive function, blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse. Here’s why you’ll want to include blueberry’s benefits in your diet more often.
Why Are Blueberries Good for You?
You’ve probably heard you should eat blueberries for their antioxidants, but what makes blueberries so beneficial? Is it worth making the extra effort to incorporate them into your diet?
Nutritional Breakdown of Blueberries
Blueberries are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. However, the nutrients in blueberries can vary, based on variety, ripeness, and growing conditions. Wild blueberries (lowbush variety) may have up to twice the antioxidants of highbush blueberries.
Blueberries are packed with nutrition, including:
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin E
You’ll also find plenty of antioxidants, including anthocyanin and quercetin.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Packing such a stellar nutritional punch, blueberries are worth consuming regularly. Here are some of the top researched benefits of blueberries.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, especially a type of polyphenol antioxidant called flavonoids. Anthocyanins are the main flavonoids that give blueberries their deep blue-purple color.
Antioxidants combat oxidative stress and free radicals. Scientists have shown that eating blueberries increases your blood levels of antioxidants. Oxidative stress is a key driver of inflammation, which is blamed for many chronic health conditions and premature aging.
Eating plenty of blueberries may help reduce symptoms of these inflammatory conditions. However, remember that blueberries are just one small part of a wellness-focused lifestyle.
2. Promote Heart Health
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide, followed closely by stroke. Some studies suggest eating blueberries may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their phytochemicals and fiber may reduce blood pressure, balance cholesterol, and improve heart health.
Harvard University and a British university did a joint study to test the effects of anthocyanins on heart health. They found increasing anthocyanins reduced the risk of heart attacks by 32% in young and middle-aged women.
Additionally, blueberries may improve endothelial function, meaning they promote healthy blood vessels. A 2011 trial found anthocyanins promoted healthy blood flow. They also improved cholesterol balance and decreased inflammation.
3. Support Brain Function
Eating blueberries may protect against cognitive decline and enhance brain health. Their antioxidants may help protect brain cells from damage and improve memory and mental performance.
A small 2011 study tested the effects of wild blueberry juice on older adults with memory issues. After 12 weeks of supplementation, there were clear signs of better recall and better mood!
Children can also get cognitive benefits from blueberry consumption. In a study of children aged 7 to 10, a blueberry drink improved cognitive performance compared to a placebo.
4. Promote Healthy Digestion
The dietary fiber in blueberries aids digestion. A 2023 review study found blueberries not only suppressed oxidative stress in the digestive system but also reduced gut permeability (“leaky gut”).
Blueberries both lowered gut inflammation and improved the structure of the digestive tract. They also changed the gut microbiome to a more favorable balance.
An animal study showed the alteration in gut bacteria lowered inflammation in the digestive tract. It also improved insulin resistance.
The gut microbiome controls the immune system and determines a lot about our health. It impacts seasonal allergies, food allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other conditions.
5. Support Healthy and Beautiful Skin
One of the most popular blueberry benefits is their potential ability to slow the aging process. The antioxidants in blueberries can protect the skin from damage from UV rays and environmental pollutants.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) lead to oxidative damage to our cells and contribute to the aging process. Compounds in blueberries may protect the skin from DNA damage that could lead to skin cancer.
Because they have vitamin C, blueberries can help prevent skin damage from the sun and environmental pollutants. They can also boost collagen production to maintain skin elasticity. Having plenty of collagen smoothes wrinkles and repairs the skin.
6. Help the Body Protect Against Cancer
More research is needed, but in some studies, blueberry antioxidants protect against cancer. The antioxidants in blueberries fight free radicals in the body, which can damage DNA, one potential cause of cancer.
In test tube and animal studies, blueberries also suppress tumor growth. In a 2008 study, researchers gave blueberry powder to rats with breast cancer. The blueberry powder reduced the tumors by 40%, which is huge. A 2010 test-tube study also found blueberry extract suppressed breast cancer cell growth.
7. Combat Urinary Tract Infections
Have you ever heard that you should drink cranberry juice for a UTI? Blueberries, like cranberries, have a special sugar called D-mannose. This substance helps keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
These bacteria could otherwise cause irritation and inflammation, leading to painful UTI symptoms.
8. Support Blood Sugar Balance
Blueberries have a relatively low glycemic index, meaning they have a limited impact on blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those seeking stable glucose levels.
Some studies have also found blueberries to help promote insulin sensitivity and blood sugar balance. A small study of 10 sedentary people found eating blueberries with white bread improved their glucose levels after the meal.
An animal study used freeze-dried blueberry powder on obese mice. The blueberry powder increased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. In other words, it prevented obesity-induced insulin resistance, a contributor to metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
9. Promote Weight Loss
Blueberries are relatively low in calories and high in fiber. They’re a satisfying and nutritious choice for those looking to manage their weight.
The superfood berries may also help improve insulin sensitivity. A better insulin response can improve blood sugar regulation, and reduce the chances of unhealthy weight gain.
Blueberry Pesticides and How to Avoid Them
Unfortunately, these life-supporting superfoods are often full of harmful pesticides. In fact, they were put back on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list for 2023. While they can vary by location, pests, and farming practices, these pesticides are common on blueberries:
- Pyrethroids: These synthetic chemicals are effective against a wide range of insects. Ingested in large amounts they’ve been known to cause tingling in the face, itchy and burning skin, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and muscle twitching.
- Neonicotinoids: The most used insecticide class, neonics kill beneficial and endangered pollinators like butterflies and bees. They remain in the soil and harm other wildlife.
- They capture: Listed as a probable human carcinogen it’s been banned by the EPA for use in certain crops, yet it’s still been detected on those crops.
- Mancozeb: This fungicide has been recently banned in Europe for causing endocrine disruption and harm to the reproductive system.
- Boscalid: Boscalid fungicide runoff shows some evidence of harming aquatic life by damaging fish’s nervous systems.
Then there are the other herbicides like glyphosate that are used to control weeds around blueberry bushes.
When grocery shopping for blueberries, ideally, go organic. If you go to your local farmer’s market and don’t find organic, ask if they spray them with anything. Of course, the best option is to forage for wild blueberries (just make sure you do it legally!) or grow them yourself.
How to Get More Blueberry Benefits
The easiest way (and favorite of many during the summer) to eat blueberries is simply eating them fresh. They make a terrific, refreshing snack and can satisfy cravings for sugar if you’re detoxing.
But if you want to switch things up a bit, here are some ideas:
You can also easily freeze fresh blueberries and throw frozen ones in muffins or pancakes. Wild blueberries are easy to find in the frozen section of your local grocery store.
Are you a fan of blueberries? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Share with us below!