By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
We’re sure you’ve heard that blueberries are good for your health, but do you know the many reasons why they’re touted as healthful? To celebrate National Blueberry Month, we’re talking about why blueberries are awesome.
Blueberries are tasty, versatile, and come in many variations of blue and in different shapes and sizes. Blueberries that are wild tend to be smaller in size and darker in color, whereas blueberries that are farmed may tend to be larger and slightly lighter blue. Like other berries, it’s important that you look for them locally-grown or organic, as berries tend to be “dirtier” than some other fruits and vegetables, and may contain more pesticides. If you can’t find locally grown or organic blueberries just make sure to wash them well under running water or in a 1 part water/1 part vinegar wash.
So we know they’re tasty, but why are they so good for overall health?
1. Source of Antioxidants
Blueberries are widely known for their rich source of antioxidants and in fact, some say they have the highest concentration of antioxidants of any fruit. Antioxidants play a key role in helping to counteract oxidative damage caused to our cells from a variety of natural factors. Over time, oxidative damage may play a role in the development of cancers and other health issues, which is why antioxidant consumption through rich food sources may be beneficial in keeping us healthy. Blueberries contain both anthocyanins, a member of the flavonoid family, and pterostilbenes, both of which are widely known for their source of antioxidants and for their potential health benefits (see below).
Blueberries contain vitamin C, a well known immune-booster that may help to stimulate white blood cell function to fight off illness. Blueberries also contain pterostilbene. Research suggests this may play an important role with vitamin D to increase the body’s expression of a certain antimicrobial gene that is involved with immune function.
3. Low in Calories, High in Fiber
One cup of blueberries contains 84 calories, is cholesterol free, and contains about 4-5 grams of fiber, which can help to slow digestion and make you feel fuller for longer.
4. Brain and Motor Health
Because of their rich source of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, blueberries may play a protective role for brain health. Research suggests that flavonoids may play a role in preventing and reversing short term memory loss and in improving motor function.
5. Vision health
Blueberries may provide benefit to eye health given their rich source of antioxidants, vitamin A and zinc, all of which play an important role in eye health. The family of antioxidants, anthocyanins, and nutrients carotenoids together may play a role in preventing macular degeneration, cataracts, and myopia.
6. Heart Health
Blueberries contain fiber (1 cup provides ~4-5 grams of fiber) that can help to promote heart health and along with the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that they contain, may help to promote heart health. In addition, blueberries are a good source of potassium that can help to promote balanced blood pressure.
7. Digestive Health
Thanks to their source of fiber, blueberries may help to promote digestive health and prevent constipation. In addition, blueberries contain a compound, pterostilbene, that may help to prevent colon cancer. Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin C that may help to promote healthy digestion.
Thanks to all of the antioxidants that blueberries contain and all their anti-oxidative properties they promote, blueberries and the compounds in them may help to prevent certain types of cancers. For example, the compound pterostilbene found in blueberries is a strong source of antioxidants that may be beneficial in preventing colon and liver cancers.
9. Bladder Health
New findings suggest that cranberries may not be the only fruits to keep your bladder healthy; recent research suggests that blueberries may help to prevent bacteria from adhering to bladder walls that may be beneficial in helping to prevent urinary tract infections.
Now, since we know they are so good for you, there are countless ways to enjoy them!
Use them in smoothies:
They’re tasty in juices:
Blueberries add a nice, sweet flavor to salads:
Add blueberries to your breakfast cereal:
Use them as a part of a healthy dessert:
Jazz up your ice cubes: