Blueberries contain antioxidants, which work to neutralize free radicals linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other age-related conditions. They are packed with vitamins C, E, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. They also contain minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. Not only are blueberries yummy, they offer huge health benefits, from boosting brain health to battling UTIs.
1. Weight Loss Benefits
Catechins found in blueberries activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells to assist with weight loss, and belly fat loss in particular. According to research at Tufts University, regularly ingesting catechins increases abdominal fat loss by 77 percent and double total weight loss.
A University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study showed that rats fed powdered freeze-dried blueberries as part of either a low or a high fat diet had less abdominal fat, and lower triglycerides (blood fats) and cholesterol than rats not fed blueberry powder. (The benefits were even greater when combined with the low-fat diet.) Researchers found blueberry intake affected genes linked to fat burning and storage.
2. Anti-Cancer Benefits
While almost exclusively coming in the form of laboratory studies on human cells or laboratory animal studies, an increasing percentage of the blueberry research is being focused on anti-cancer benefits. Types of cancer already studied with respect to blueberry intake include breast cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, and cancers of the small intestine. We look forward to the results of large-scale human studies on the potential ability of blueberry intake to lower risk of these cancer types.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Blueberries are excellent anti-inflammatory agents. They increase the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins that decrease as people age. When heat shock proteins decrease the result is inflammation and damage, particularly in the brain. Research shows that by eating blueberries regularly, inflammation lessens.
4. Blood Sugar Benefits
Persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance have a special challenge with respect to blood sugar balance. In many cases, persons diagnosed with obesity also have special challenge maintaining a balanced blood sugar level. It’s simply more difficult for these individuals to keep their blood sugar levels from spiking too high (or sometimes also from dropping down too low).
Research on blood sugar balance and blueberry intake has been conducted on individuals who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance, and the results of this research have been consistent. They have shown that blueberries (along with other berries) have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with blood sugar problems.
5. Digestive Benefits
One cup of raw blueberries contains four grams of fiber, or over 15 percent of the recommended daily intake. The soluble fiber present in blueberries can absorb 10 to 15 times its own weight in water, drawing fluid into your gut and increasing bowel movements. While fiber in blueberries keep away constipation, the vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose and acids improve digestion.
6. Brain Food
Bluberries contain a group of natural phytonutrients (plant nutrient) called proanthocyanidins which have a unique ability to protect both the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage from some environmental toxins.
A study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine suggests that blueberries reverse age-related memory loss, thanks to its abundance of antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been found to activate the parts of the brain that control memory and learning.
Another study done at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center looked at the effect of daily consumption of wild blueberry juice on older adults with memory changes. After 12 weeks, participants showed improved memory function.
7. Cardiovascular Benefits
The high fiber content, those brilliant anti oxidants and the ability to dissolve the ‘bad cholesterol’ make blueberries an ideal dietary supplement to cure many heart diseases. It also strengthens the cardiac muscles. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, researchers found that a moderate drink (about 4 ounces) of white wine contained .47 mmol of free radical absorbing antioxidants, red wine provided 2.04 mmol, and a wine made from highbush blueberries delivered 2.42 mmol of these protective plant compounds.
8. Prevent Hypertension
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that anthocyanins — blue-red pigments found in blueberries — offer protection against hypertension. Over a 14-year period, the study looked at about 134,000 women and 23,000 men. Those eating more than one 1/2-cup (125-mL) serving of blueberries a week reduced their risk of developing this condition by 10 percent compared to those who didn’t eat any blueberries.
9. Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Blueberries, like cranberries, contain compounds that prevent bacteria from adhering to bladder walls, which helps ward off urinary tract infections, according to a Rutgers University study. It also has some anti biotic properties which adds to this effect. These heavy and big molecules almost wash-off these bacteria along the tract, thereby preventing the infection.
10. Eye Health Benefits
The retina of the eye is a unique place in our body and it is also a place that is at higher than normal risk of oxidative stress. Foods unique in phytonutrient antioxidants are often investigated for their ability to help protect the retina from oxygen damage, and blueberries are no exception. In preliminary studies on laboratory animals, the anthocyanins in blueberry protected the retina from unwanted oxygen damage. Interestingly, they have also been determined to help protect the retina from damage from sunlight. Like the area of cancer protection, we look forward to future research on human eye health and the potential for blueberry intake to help protect the human eye from damage by sunlight and oxidative stress.
11. Skin Care Benefits
Blueberry extract skin care products are becoming very popular around the world. It has been reported that the wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals help restore hormone balance, which counteracts acne.
Also, blueberries contain resveratrol which has been proven to reduce damage from over-sun exposure and can naturally darken your skin.
How to Select and Store Blueberries
Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform hue colored with a whitish bloom. Shake the container, noticing whether the berries have the tendency to move freely; if they do not, this may indicate that they are soft and damaged or moldy.
Avoid berries that appear dull in color or are soft and watery in texture. They should be free from moisture since the presence of water will cause the berries to decay.
When purchasing frozen berries, shake the bag gently to ensure that the berries move freely and are not clumped together, which may suggest that they have been thawed and refrozen.
Before storing remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling. Don’t wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skins from degradation.
Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.
Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries. To better ensure uniform texture upon thawing, spread the berries out on a cookie sheet or baking pan, place in the freezer until frozen, then put the berries in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer.