Health Benefits of Blueberries

Fresh blueberries, with their sweet flavor and juice, are a great summer treat. They are popularly eaten raw or made into a range of recipes and also are available frozen.

They have been proven to be an excellent defense against cancer and heart disease and also for bone strength, healthy blood pressure and mental health.

Published: March 27, 2018.

Incredible Facts about Blueberries

- Blueberries consist of a phytochemical known as anthocyanin which gives blueberries their characteristic blue color and also the health benefits.

- A cup of blueberries offer 24% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

- Blueberries can be used to decorate pancakes, waffles, yogurt, cereal or oatmeal, can be blended into syrups and smoothies and folded into sweet breads and muffins.

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Health Benefits

As mentioned earlier, a phytochemical anthocyanin offers most of the health benefits that blueberries offer. Consuming various fruits and vegetables has long been known to reduce the risk of lifestyle-induced health conditions.

Several studies have shown that increasing plant food consumption reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and overall mortality. Plant foods even may promote skin and hair health, increase energy and reduce weight.
As per the experts, freezing blueberries can reduce the potency of their health benefits. One of the studies found that over the course of 6 months of storage of blueberries, anthocyanin degraded by 59%.

Nevertheless, this is not sure and various sources take varied stances on whether freezing blueberries indeed reduces their health benefits. All in all, it’s good to purchase fresh, organic blueberries.

Though more research is required, blueberries are emphatically connected to various elements of healthy living.

Protection Against Heart Disease

Nutrients like vitamins B6 and C, folate, fiber, phytonutrients and potassium in blueberries support heart health. Blueberries are free from cholesterol which too is advantageous to the heart.

Their fiber content reduces the total blood cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Their folate and vitamin B6 stop the buildup of homocystine. Excessive accumulation of this compound in the body can cause harm to blood vessels and result in heart problems.

According to a 2015 study, eating blueberries every day for 8 weeks showed reduced arterial stiffness and blood pressure in 48 women, whereas the Journal of Nutrition published another study according to which blueberry supplementation resulted in higher reduction in oxidized LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, two critical risk factors for heart disease, as compared to a control group.
According to the study, women who ate at least three servings of strawberries or blueberries per week revealed the best results.

Diabetes Management

According to studies, type 1 diabetes patients who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes patients who take the same improve in their blood sugar, insulin and lipid levels. A cup of blueberries offers 3.6gm of fiber.

BMJ published a large 2013 cohort study according to which particular fruits may lessen the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. During the study, 6.5% of the individuals developed diabetes. Nevertheless, the researchers observed that consuming weekly three servings of blueberries, raisins, grapes, pears or apples lessened the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%.

Prevention of Cancer

Vitamins A and C and the variety of phytonutrients in blueberries work as potent antioxidants that may protect cells against damage from disease-causing free radicals.
According to studies, these antioxidants may stop tumor growth, reduce inflammation in the body and help eliminate or slow down cancers of lung, esophagus, pharynx, mouth, pancreas, colon, prostate and endometrium, whereas a 2010 study showed that blueberry extract could stop growth and spread of breast cancer cells.

The antioxidant capacity of blueberries, strawberries and blackberries were compared in a study in China in which it was found that blueberries not only consisted of the greatest total antioxidant capacity, but also consisted of more of several particular types of antioxidants, including flavonoids, anthocyanin and phenols.

Wild (lowbush) blueberries are particularly high in antioxidants. The British Journal of Nutrition published a study which found that participants supplemented with wild blueberry powder showed increased serum antioxidant levels by 8.5% within just an hour.

Folate in blueberries plays a role in synthesis and repair of DNA which can eliminate the generation of cancer cells because of mutations in the DNA.

However, it’s always recommended to consume various types of berries and other fruits and veggies to optimize the cancer-fighting power of your diet.

Healthy Bones

Blueberries contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin K and manganese. All these are components of bones. Sufficient intake of these nutrients helps in developing and maintaining structure and strength of bones.
Zinc and iron play important roles in preserving the strength and elasticity of bones and joints.

Lower intake of vitamin K can increase the risk of bone fracture. Sufficient intake of vitamin K enhances calcium absorption and may lessen its loss.

Healthy Blood Pressure

Low sodium levels are essential for keeping blood pressure at a healthy level. Blueberries are devoid of sodium. They are high in calcium, potassium and magnesium. According to some studies, diets low in these nutrients are linked to higher blood pressure. Sufficient dietary intake of them is supposed to help maintain healthy blood pressure.

But it should be also remembered that some other studies don’t support these findings. E.g. a 2015 study done on individuals with metabolic syndrome revealed that daily consumption of blueberries for 6 weeks didn’t have any effect on blood pressure levels.

Skin Health

Collagen is the main support of skin. It is dependent on vitamin C for its formation and helps prevent skin damage resulted from pollution, smoke and sun. Vitamin C may even improve the ability of collagen to improve skin texture and smooth wrinkles. Blueberries are loaded with vitamin C.

Improvement in Digestion, Feeling of Fullness and Weight Loss

Blueberries are helpful in warding off constipation and maintaining the regularity of digestive tract health due to their fiber content. This fiber content is supposed to be an important component in weight loss as well as weight management by working as a “bulking agent”. High fiber food promotes satiety and thereby reduces appetite. Feeling of fullness for longer can lessen the overall calorie intake of a person. The whopping 3.6gm of fiber in a cup of blueberries meet 14% of the daily requirement in just one serving. It’s recommended to combine blueberries with ample water, other high-fiber foods such as other fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes, and physical activity to maintain one’s digestive system in top shape.

Combats Inflammation

While inflammation is just a response of the body that helps protect it from injury and illness, chronic inflammation is the cause of several diseases. The fact is that, inflammation is supposed to contribute to a wide array of conditions including heart disease, autoimmune conditions, cancer and even depression.

Courtesy to their high antioxidant content, blueberries have been found to provide a considerable anti-inflammatory effect in the body. According to a 2014 test-tube study, polyphenols in blueberries helped lessen the action of many markers of inflammation.

Improvement in Mental Health

According to population-based research, consumption of blueberries is linked to slowed down cognitive damage in older women. Research has also found that besides reducing the chances of cognitive damage, blueberries can even enhance the motor coordination or short-term memory of a person.

The European Journal of Nutrition published a study in 2016 according to which consuming a blueberry juice showed improvement in cognitive performance in 21 children as compared to a placebo, whereas according to another study, consuming a wild blueberry drink every day for 12 weeks improved the memory of older adults.

Protection against Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberries are known to prevent urinary tract infections that are common in women. Blueberries contain certain nutrients similar to cranberries and so, they too can help prevent UTI.

These nutrients are known as anti-adhesives and prevent bacteria like E. coli from adhering to the wall of the bladder. Though blueberries haven’t been researched much for this condition, they have higher chances to have similar actions as cranberries.

Nutritional Info of Blueberries

One cup of fresh blueberries offer:

- 0gm cholesterol
- 84 calories
- 0.49g fat
- 1.1g protein
- 21.45g carbohydrate
- 14.74g total sugars
- 3.6g dietary fiber
- 9mg calcium
- 114mg potassium
- 18mg phosphorus
- 0.41mg iron
- 1mg sodium
- 9mg magnesium
- 0.1mg copper
- 0.5mg manganese
- 9mg folate
- 0.24mg zinc
  - 4% of RDA of thiamine (0.1mg)
- 4% of RDA of vitamin B6 (0.1mg)
- 4% of RDA of riboflavin (0.1mg)
- 24% of RDA of vitamin C (14.4mg)
- 4% of RDA of vitamin E (0.8mg)
- 36% of RDA of vitamin K (28.6mcg)

blueberries hb 1Blueberries also consist of beta-carotene, vitamins A and E, copper, choline, folate and manganese. They also contain a variety of phenolic compounds such as kaempferol, quercetin, cholorogenic acid and myricetin, all of which increase the antioxidant power of blueberries.

Because of the large quantities of bioactive compounds, blueberries are on a high rank on the ANDI i.e. Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Foods are rated in this index according to their vitamin and mineral content, antioxidant capacity and phytochemical structure.

Highest ranks are given to foods that have the most nutrients per calorie and blueberries rank among the top fruits and vegetables for their nutrient density with an ANDI score of 132.

ANDI is one of the many rating systems for food nutrition; however, more research is required to find out the role of particular foods in prevention of diseases.

Risk Factors

Blueberries are overall supposed to be safe and most people can consume them with minimal chances of side effects. However, risk factors should be considered to seek help on time.

Those who are on blood thinners like warfarin should not suddenly alter blueberry intake or other vitamin K sources.

Vitamin K has an important role in blood clotting and so, could affect the drug’s blood-thinning action.

Blueberries may cause allergic reactions in some people such as swelling, itching or difficulty in breathing. If such symptoms occur, consumption of blueberries should be stopped and the person should visit a doctor immediately.

An overall diet is more vital than any single food for achieving good health and prevention of diseases. It’s always advisable to eat a varied diet rather than to focus on particular foods.

If you are intetested even more about blueberries, feel free to check these articles (links open in the new windows):

- A systematic review of the evidence for cranberries and blueberries in UTI prevention (PubMed)

- Anti-Escherichia coli Adhesin Activity of Cranberry and Blueberry Juices (The New England Journal of Medicine)

- Polyphenols from blueberries modulate inflammation cytokines in LPS-induced RAW264.7 macrophages (PubMed)

Of course, there are other studies that show health benefits of blueberries. Thus, include them in your diet and enjoy these great berries. Just be aware that too much of something good doesn't have to be good :)

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