Spotlight on Blueberries: Serious Antioxidant Action for Your Heart
6 mins read
Blueberry production in the United States increased from 193 million pounds in 1995 to 735 million pounds in 2015. This staggering rise in production is a clear indicator of Americans’ love affair with this versatile blue fruit. Not only do blueberries make a tasty snack, more and more research confirms the nutrients, antioxidants, and special compounds found in this flavorful berry protect the body from several health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.
Nutrient Profile of Blueberries
Did you know that a cup of blueberries contains just 80 calories? That’s right—you can down a whole cup of this amazing little superfood and feel totally guilt-free. With practically zero fat and very low sodium, blueberries are proof that nature provides powerful punches of nutrients in small, unassuming packages. Here’s a look at the major nutrients in blueberries and how they work in your body:
- Vitamin C—this vitamin promotes growth and tissue development and aids in wound healing (one serving of blueberries provides a whopping 25 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C intake)
- Soluble fiber—this important dietary nutrient keeps you feeling full for longer by slowing down the rate at which sugar is released into your bloodstream; a diet rich in fiber helps keep your digestive system in top-notch shape and may also help you manage your weight
- Manganese—this compound facilitates the processing and digestion of cholesterol, carbohydrates, and protein
- Vitamin K—playing a crucial role in bone and skin health, this vitamin also aids in blood clotting
- Anthocyanidins—a special compound linked to firmer, younger-looking skin and more importantly, heart health
Of all the nutrients listed here, the one that is most unique to blueberries is anthocyanidins. These are potent and effective antioxidants found only in red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables.
Anthocyanidins are actually responsible for the distinctive color of blueberries. But they do much more than give blueberries their namesake color, they also have been shown to enter the bloodstream and target blood vessels surrounding the heart, reinforcing and preserving them. This specific action links anthocyanidins to lower rates of heart disease. And for all you out there looking for an age-busting superfood, take note that the anthocyanidins found in blueberries can do wonders for your skin care routine too, strengthening and firming collagen in your face and other areas of your body.
Read more about the nutrients in specific fruits and vegetables: Spotlight on Cauliflower: Your New Cruciferous Friend May Reduce Your Cancer Risk
Health Benefits of Blueberries
In one study, the chemical composition of 12 berries was analyzed. Each berry variety was measured for its total polyphenol content (TPC) and total flavonoid content (TFC). Researchers found that blueberries, blue honeysuckle, and black currant had the highest TPC and TFC content. These results prove that blueberries offer greater antioxidant capacity than its close cousins. And greater antioxidant capacity means more health benefits are in store for those who eat a diet rich in these blue little wonders.
A study led by Dr. Eric Rimm at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School found that women who ate very few strawberries and blueberries in their diet were at an increased risk of heart attack. This study followed 93,500 women between the ages of 25 and 42 over 18 years. Participants’ diets were routinely monitored throughout the longitudinal study. Amazingly, researchers found that women who ate the highest amounts of blueberries and strawberries were 34 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack than women who ate the least amounts of these berries.
So how many blueberries and strawberries must you eat to reap these types of results? A moderate amount, actually. Dr. Rimm recommends eating a half a cup of either berry three times per week or more to protect your body’s most hardworking organ.
You now know that blueberries are great for heart health. But you might be wondering what other ways that can benefit you. These are some ways in which blueberries work in your body:
- Reduces diarrhea and constipation
- Eases the symptoms of urinary tract infections
- Improves low-density lipoprotein levels (known as “bad” cholesterol)
- Aids in glucose metabolism, which may be especially helpful for people managing type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome
- Cuts down fat levels
- Lessens signs of depression and mood disturbances in older adults
- Improves memory and cognitive function in older adults
Read more about how blueberries positively impact your health: 5 (More) Reasons to Enjoy Blueberries Everyday
Tips for Adding More Blueberries to Your Diet
A handful of fresh blueberries (about one serving) is a delicious, health-conscious snack you can carry with you on-the-go. Whether you’re commuting to work, watching your daughter’s soccer practice, or out to coffee with the girls, stashing a baggy of blueberries in your bag is always a good idea. Here are some more ways to incorporate blueberries into your diet:
- Give your breakfast an antioxidant boost: Add blueberries to cereal, a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, or a cup of non-fat Greek yogurt.
- Whip up a batch of blueberry pancakes: Add fresh blueberries to whole-grain pancake mix to brighten up your batter. You may also opt to top plain pancakes with whole blueberries.
- Create a colorful summer salad: Add mixed greens, sliced cucumbers, halved strawberries, pomegranate seeds, and blueberries to a salad bowl. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil and fresh lemon. This recipe is sure to be a hit at your next family gathering.
As you’ve learned, the benefits of blueberries are boundless. So stock up on these antioxidant-packed berries next time you hit the store, and combine them with other nutrient-rich berries like blackberries and raspberries. Experimenting with different colors, textures, and flavors of berries can help make your recipe ideas extra fun—and healthful—this season.
U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Blueberry nutrition. https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/. Accessed February 2, 2018.
U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Health benefits of blueberries. https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/. Accessed February 2, 2018.
Lewin, J, BBC. The health benefits of blueberries. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-blueberries. Updated January 2017. Accessed February 2, 2018.
Chen L, Xin X, Yuan Q, Su D, Liu W. Phytochemical properties and antioxidant capacities of various colored berries [abstract]. J Sci Food Agri. 2014;94(2):180-188. doi:10.1002/jsfa.6216.
Basu A, Rhone M, Lyons TJ. Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(3):168-177. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00273.x.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Eat blueberries and strawberries three times per week. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/eat-blueberries-and-strawberries-three-times-per-week. Updated July 2013. Accessed February 2, 2018.
Yan, L, United States Department of Agriculture. Blueberries and health. https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2014/blueberries-and-health/. Updated August 2016. Accessed February 2, 2018.
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