For such a tiny fruit, blueberries sure do pack a powerful punch. This vibrant, nutrient-dense fruit is a long-studied superfood fruit and is rich in resveratrol, quercetin, polyphenols (most notably proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins) and other flavonoids, as well as fiber and vitamin C. Relatively low in sugar, blueberries have a low glycemic load, meaning they don’t cause sharp spikes in blood sugar much like some natural fruits. Blueberries are also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which play an important role in lessening inflammation associated with chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and memory loss. Best of all, they’re only 80 calories per cup! Check out these amazing blueberry benefits.
Cancer Preventative: Blueberries may have myriad anti-cancer effects. Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, this sweet-tasting fruit may reduce oxidation and inflammation, dual processes that promote chronic diseases, including cancer. A more recent study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that blueberries’ proanthocyanidins may inhibit the growth of certain human prostate cancer cells. Another recent study from Rutgers University identified it may contain chemicals that can help prevent colon cancer.
Brain Boost: Blueberries may improve memory thanks to its proanthocyanidins, which give the berry its blue color. This polyphenol has the unique capacity to protect both the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage by environmental toxins. Additional studies suggest eating blueberries regularly may reverse some age-related memory loss and motor skill decline.
Heart Health Hero: As a good source of dietary fiber, blueberries may keep cholesterol in check. Women who eat blueberries are less likely to suffer from a heart attack, according to a study reported on by Harvard Health Publications. In the study, women who ate the most blueberries were 34 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Researchers suspect that these berries were beneficial because they are high in anthocyanins.
Bone Strengthener: An excellent source of manganese, blueberries may play an important role in bone development. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry concluded that blueberries can prevent bone loss. The study showed an increase in bone mineral density and favorable changes in biomarkers of bone metabolism.
Bladder Aid: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that take hold and grow inside the urinary tract, resulting in infection. While cranberries are more widely revered for improving bladder health, blueberries can also help fight UTIs. They discourage food-borne disease-causing bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella, and inhibit bacteria from binding to bladder tissue.
Vision Repair: Blueberries pack 14 milligrams of vitamin C per cup. This beneficial property can aid your health in a multitude of ways, including your eye health. Vitamin C reduces intraocular pressure, decreasing the potential for developing glaucoma, the second most common cause of blindness in the U.S., according to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Skin Food: Among its other benefits, blueberries are a boon for skin. As a rich source of antioxidants, anthocyanins and vitamin C, blueberries can help maintain youthful-looking skin. Use topically (try this Antioxidant Mask Recipe) or eat regularly for its skin-boosting benefits.
To benefit from blueberries health-boosting properties, eat about three or four servings of blueberries each week, according to Harvard University. Right now is the best time to enjoy blueberries—this tasty berry is ready for picking in late July to mid-August, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. But don’t rush to pick as soon as the berries turns blue. Wait a couple of days—when they’re ready they should fall off right into your hand once you give the clusters a little tickle. Harvested blueberries will keep for up to two weeks, so be sure to preserve a bounty of fresh blueberries for winter months—they’re easy to freeze!
Native to North America, there are three types of blueberries: Highbush blueberries are most commonly found at grocery stores; lowbush blueberries, which are generally smaller and sweeter, are equally delicious and most often found in pie fillings; and rabbiteye blueberries are even smaller but not as high in flavor. Try blueberries in the following Mother Earth Living recipes.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.
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