Blueberries are blue to purple-colored, 5-16 millimeters in diameter, known for their sweet taste. What most people are unaware of is that these small berries contain blasts of nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, copper and dietary fibers. Their sweet taste can be mistaken for high sugar content. However, blueberries have a meager number of calories and carbohydrates. Health benefits of blueberries include cardiovascular benefits, prevents cancer, slows down aging, a good source of antioxidants, boosts brain function, etc.
Blueberries have certain chemicals which act as anti-oxidants and hence, lower inflammatory reactions and reduce the risk of common ailments like diabetes and coronary artery disease.
As compared to other berries, blueberries have by far, the maximum anti-oxidant and nutritive values. (1) Moving ahead, you read top 8 health benefits of blueberries in detail along with their nutritional facts and precautions.
History of blueberries
Blueberry plant belongs to the genus Vaccinium which also consists of Huckleberry and Cranberry. Originally, blueberries were cultivated exclusively in North America for their medicinal properties and their exquisite taste.
In the early 1900’s, Elizabeth White and Frederick Coville conducted experiments to find the best breed of blueberries and grew innumerable varieties of these plants which eventually gave rise to the presently known highbush (cultivated) and lowbush (wild) variants.
Over the years, because of myriads health benefits of blueberries, the popularity of this fruit has seen a steep rise in quality, quantity, and variety. The United States Department of Agriculture declared July as ‘National Blueberry Month’ in 1974.
In 2003, New Jersey chose blueberry as the official berry of the state. By 2014, blueberry production had spread across five continents rising to 1 billion lbs.
Today, blueberries are grown commercially in New Zealand, Australia, and some South American cities, in addition to the original species grown in North America. (18)
Blueberries nutrition facts
Looking at several health benefits of blueberries, you must be wondering about their nutritional facts. Blueberries, although small in size, are filled with a myriad of nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants.
Following is the nutritional content of a cupful of blueberries –
- 84 calories
- 21.4 grams carbohydrates
- 1.1 grams protein
- 0.5-grams fat
- 28.6 micrograms vitamin K
- 14.4 milligrams vitamin C
- 0.8-milligram vitamin E
- 0.1-milligram vitamin B6
- 0.1-milligram vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- 0.1-milligram vitamin B2 (riboflavin )
- 0.1-milligram copper
- 0.5-milligram manganese
- 3.6 grams of dietary fibers
Vitamin K helps in blood clot formation, vitamin C keeps our gums and vessels healthy and also has antioxidant action along with vitamin E.
Plant fibers increase stool frequency and produce satiety. Blueberries also contain phytochemicals like anthocyanins, polyphenols, and flavonoids which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Health benefits of blueberries
There are several health benefits of blueberries and they are –
1. High antioxidant activity
One of the biggest health benefits of blueberries is their antioxidant properties. They contain antioxidants such as phenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins.
Antioxidants are scavengers of harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl ions, and superoxides.
These free radicals damage our cell membranes and DNA thus, inciting autoimmunity, cell death, and even cancer. (2) A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition states that giving wild blueberry powder along with a fatty diet will increase the antioxidant levels in serum as compared to a high-fat diet without any supplements of blueberry. (3)
2. Slows down aging and prevents cancer
Every second, our DNA undergoes some harm, and our body fights back to protect its integrity. However, some damage remains and leads to aging of cells and sometimes, cancer promotion.
One of the most harmful substances for our DNA is free radicals. A 4-week study involving 168 participants showed that the antioxidant activity of fresh or powdered blueberries reduced free radical-induced DNA damage by almost 20%. (4)
Another study showed that phytochemicals (chemicals derived from plants) in blueberries, namely anthocyanins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids, play a significant role in reducing the growth and spread of prostate, breast, intestinal and stomach cancer cells. (5)
Some other food items that can minimize the risk of cancer are broccoli, bell pepper, spinach, beans, and oranges.
3. Cardiovascular benefits
Coronary heart disease (CHD) has emerged as one of the leading causes of death in the USA due to unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. (6)
Other risk factors include hypertension and higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These conditions put undue stress on the heart and reduce its blood supply eventually leading to a heart attack.
Daily supplementation of blueberries for eight weeks has shown a reduction in the blood pressure and arterial stiffness of 48 postmenopausal women. (7)
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition has established the blueberries reduce blood pressure and LDL levels (a form of cholesterol) in blood hence, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. (8)
Some other food items which lower the risk of CHD are those containing natural fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, soy, and olives. Change your oils continuously (olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil) instead of a single type of oil.
4. Boosts brain function
Free radicals and reactive oxygen species cause irreversible damage to neurons which becomes one of the leading causes of dementia in the elderly.
Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of blueberries make them ideal to delay the harmful effects of aging on the brain. Phytochemicals present in these berries modulate signaling in our nerves.
The similar conclusion came from a 12-week study involving older adults which established that blueberries confer cognitive enhancement. (9)
Another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that supplementing the diet of 7 to 10-year-old children with blueberry drinks improves their verbal memory, word recognition, and information processing. (10)
Some other food items which enhance brain function are walnuts, avocados, beets and green leafy vegetables.
5. Keeps diabetes under control
According to a report by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 million US adults suffer are suffering from diabetes. (11) High sugar causes a lot of disabilities like kidney problem, coronary heart disease, and vision disturbances.
A laboratory research paper on Canadian lowbush blueberries showed that polyphenols in these berries increase glucose uptake and metabolism in muscle and fat cells, an action physiologically performed by insulin. (12)
The Journal of Nutrition published a study in which 32 obese patients with insulin resistance were given daily blueberry juice supplementation and their insulin sensitivity improved. (13) So, blueberries act as an adjuvant in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Some other anti-diabetic food items are whole grain, nuts, poultry, and fish. Cut down on your red meat consumption to get faster results.
6. Blunts down inflammatory reactions
Inflammation is our body’s reaction to injury which, if localized, produces pain, redness, and swelling and if it occurs all over the body for a long time, it leads to autoimmune disorders, Heart conditions, Cancer, and depression. (14)
Polyphenols present in blueberries destroy primary inflammatory mediators like interleukin 1-beta and interleukin 6 hence, alleviating the symptoms of chronic inflammation. (15)
Some other food items which protect against inflammatory conditions include broccoli, salmon, pineapple, celery and chia seeds.
7. Promotes weight loss
The nutrient content of blueberries reveals that it has very low-calorie content. Also, Blueberries are very rich in fibers. One cup of these magical berries contains about 3.6 grams of fibers which is a whopping 14% of our recommended daily dietary intake.
Since fibers take a long time in passing through the gut, we feel full and satiated after eating even a small meal.
A study published in the journal PLoS, one showed that when laboratory rats on a high-fat diet are given supplemental blueberry and mulberry juice, their body weight and cholesterol levels don’t rise as much as the control rats without blueberry supplements.
This is because anthocyanin, one of the phytochemicals in blueberries, plays a significant role in reducing obesity. (16)
Some other food items that support weight loss are green leafy vegetables, Salmon, Tuna, whole eggs and lean beef. However, daily exercise and adequate sleep go a long way in maintaining a fit body.
8. Improves digestion
One of the amazing health benefits of blueberries is their ability to improve digestion. A single cup of blueberries provides 14% of our daily fiber intake, making it a potential therapy for constipation, an ailment suffered by many in the USA.
However, it doesn’t soften the consistency of stools nor does it reduce the pain of constipation. So, conventional medications remain a mainstay treatment for a blocked gut.
Plant fibers are resistant to the enzymes in our gut, and hence, they remain there for a long time. Fibers increase the bulk of stools and aids in propelling food forward thus, increasing the frequency of defecation (passing stools).
A meta-analysis published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology shows that fibers increase stool frequency in constipation. (17)
Almost all fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes are an excellent source of fibers.
How to add blueberries to your food?
In the market, blueberries are available in many different forms – fresh, frozen, powdered, jelly, jam, and syrup. You can customize your recipes and play a little with blueberries in your kitchen to make your meals tastier and healthier.
- Add fresh blueberries to your pancakes, waffles, cereal or oatmeal
- Blend some fresh berries with yogurt and milk to prepare a blueberry smoothie. You can add blackberries, strawberries, and all the different berries to suit your taste.
- For children, you can make blueberry ice popsicles or home-made blueberry syrup as a topping to your ice-cream.
- If you like baking, you can add some dried or fresh berries to muffins and sweet bread.
Precautions while consuming blueberries
Generally, blueberries are very safe and have no side effects if eaten in moderation. However, you must check for allergies against berries and must consult a doctor immediately if you experience breathing difficulty, swelling of mouth, watering from eyes, and itching after consuming blueberries.
If you are on certain medications like Warfarin, which act by inhibiting the action of vitamin K, then ingesting blueberries will hinder with the drug action.
Dried berries have lower nutrient content and a higher calorie percentage. So, fresh blueberries must be preferred whenever you have a choice.
Blueberries grown by organic farming are safer as they don’t have harmful pesticides and other chemicals sprayed on them.
Over to you on health benefits of blueberries
In addition to their superb taste, there are several health benefits of blueberries like destroying harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species, boosting brain function, preventing depression, alleviating insulin resistance in diabetes, etc.
You can make a simple oatmeal breakfast exciting by adding some blueberries to your bowl. This will not only taste better but will also help in your digestion and keep obesity at bay.
If you want to experience most of the health benefits of blueberries, then look for organic and fresh berries opposed to dried berries and artificially flavored powders.