The benefits of blueberries have been documented in a wide variety of research. This fruit comes from the plant with the scientific name Vaccinium corymbosum, which is native to North America. However, it is also grown commercially in other countries in the Americas and Europe.
Its versatility and flavor make it one of the favorites for making jellies, cakes, wines, desserts, and many other recipes. In addition, beyond its gastronomic applications, it is also valued for its nutritional qualities, making it one of the healthiest foods. Do you want to know more about it?
Main characteristics of blueberries
Before knowing the benefits of blueberries in detail, it is convenient to know some generalities about this fruit. Also known as ‘blueberries,’ they are small, round berries ranging from 5 to 16 millimeters in diameter. Its name is due precisely to its color, which differs from blue to purple.
They grow on a wild shrub of the genus Vaccinium, from which 450 other species are distinguished. To be more precise, it corresponds to the species Vaccinium corymbosum, and they are members of the botanical family of Ericaceae, the same as azaleas and rhododendrons.
Currently, the United States is positioned as one of the countries with the highest production and consumption of this food. However, it is also present in European markets and other regions of America. It became trendy all over the world after it was classified as a ‘superfood.’
And it is that although its sweet and sour flavor can be used in multiple recipes, many prefer to add them to the diet to enjoy their nutritional value. Its consumption is associated with better health and the prevention of various diseases.
Nutritional Properties of Blueberries
As a United States Department of Agriculture publication puts it, blueberries are a bountiful source of essential nutrients. It is estimated that every 100 grams provide the following:
- Calories: 54.
- Water: 84%.
- Protein: 0.7 grams.
- Carbohydrates: 14.5 grams.
- Sugar: 10 grams.
- Fiber: 2.4 grams.
- Fat: 0.3 grams.
- Vitamin C: 16% of the recommended daily value.
- Vitamin K: 24% of the recommended daily value.
- Manganese: 22% of the recommended daily value.
It also contains smaller amounts of vitamins such as B complex, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, selenium, and iron. In addition, as detailed in a publication in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, it has other bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, flavonols, and stilbene derivatives.
benefits of blueberries
The great antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other phytoconstituents make these berries one of the best options to care for health through diet. Below, we detail its benefits.
1. They have anti-inflammatory potential
Much of the benefits of blueberries are related to their anti-inflammatory potential. Its concentration of proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, and chlorogenic acid largely explains these effects.
As research shared in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences maintains, these substances contribute to increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines and reducing oxidative stress. In addition, it helps control the activation of nuclear factor-κB, which is linked to inflammation.
2. They are abundant in antioxidants
Antioxidants play an essential role in health care. Its primary function is to mitigate the negative impact of free radicals, reactive oxygen species that can cause cell damage, premature aging, and chronic disease.
Fortunately, foods like blueberries are abundant in these antioxidant substances. Its levels are higher compared to 40 other common fruits and vegetables. A publication from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture highlights the following:Of these, anthocyanins —a group of flavonoids—stand out as the most important. This is because they are linked to most of the benefits attributed to these fruits.
3. They help reduce DNA damage
Derived from the above benefits, it should be noted that blueberries have a protective effect on DNA. In particular, its antioxidants help reduce oxidative DNA damage by neutralizing free radical activity.
In research reported through the medical journal Carcinogenesis, 168 adults consumed 1 liter of cranberry and apple juice daily for four weeks. After this time, the researchers observed that DNA damage was reduced by 20%.
Another study shared in Nutrition Research determined that a serving of blueberries (300 grams) helps improve the antioxidant defense of cells against DNA damage. This translates into a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, cognitive disorders, and diabetes.
4. They have antitumor potential
Until recently, blueberries were known as ‘anti-cancer foods.’ This is explained by some research that talks about its antitumor potential. However, it is necessary to clarify that they are not a treatment for this disease and do not prevent it by themselves.
Research shared in Cancer Research determined that anthocyanins, the main component of blueberries, have chemopreventive and therapeutic effects against estrogen-mediated breast cancer.
A review shared by the Journal of Surgical Research reported that pterostilbene, another antioxidant present in these fruits, acts as an antitumor agent in several common malignancies.
According to this publication, in in vitro models, this substance helped to inhibit cancer growth by altering the cell cycle, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting metastasis. In vivo models, it exhibited the potential to inhibit tumorigenesis and metastasis with negligible toxicity.
The scientific journal Heliyon also endorses these properties in one of its publications. According to this research, the phenolic compounds in blueberries improve the antioxidant response of the skin against the effects of reactive oxygen species, which decreases the risk of skin cancer.
5. They help regulate cholesterol levels
The oxidation of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the arteries is a risk factor for heart disease. Fortunately, foods like blueberries can help improve your blood lipid profile.According to a meta-analysis published in Scientific Reports, this food decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) concentration in the arteries while significantly increasing good cholesterol (HDL).
These effects are attributed to its high concentration of polyphenols, such as procyanidins, quercetin, phenolic acids, and anthocyanins. These substances, classified as ‘bioactive compounds’, reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
6. They favor the control of high blood pressure
Another benefit of blueberries on cardiovascular health is decreased blood pressure, especially in people with obesity or other metabolic disorder.This is explained by its ability to stimulate nitric oxide production, an endogenous antioxidant that relaxes smooth muscles and is linked to decreased pressure within blood vessels.
7. They contribute to bone healthcare
Including blueberries in your daily diet may have benefits for bone health. Due to the high contribution of polyphenols, it is believed that they help stimulate the formation of bone cells. In this way, the risk of loss of bone density and osteoporosis is reduced.
These effects are also related to its vitamin and mineral content. A review by Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care details that the micronutrients in the berries help modulate enzyme activities, cell signaling pathways, and gene expression. Therefore, its consumption represents a nutritional strategy for bone health care.
8. They help regulate blood glucose levels
One of the most important benefits of consuming blueberries is that they reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Its high anthocyanin content seems to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, as detailed by a study in the journal Nutrients.
Similarly, research in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that daily dietary supplementation with whole blueberry bio-actives increased insulin sensitivity in obese, non-diabetic, and insulin-resistant participants.
9. They protect the brain and help improve memory
Due to their ability to inhibit the adverse effects of free radicals, the antioxidants in blueberries benefit brain function, nervous system activity, and memory.
In a study of older adults at risk for dementia, shared by Nutritional Neuroscience, researchers noted that blueberry supplementation helps improve cognitive performance and neural function. In addition, they identified anthocyanins as the main responsible for these effects.
Similar findings were reported via the journal Biomolecules. According to this research, anthocyanins play a vital role in the neuroprotective properties of blueberries. In particular, they are associated with the following effects:
- Increased brain performance.
- Memory improvement at all ages.
- Protection of the brain of older people.
- Improved connections between neurons.
- Stimulation of neuronal regeneration.
10. They support the treatment of urinary tract infections
In traditional medicine, cranberry juice prevents and treats unary conditions. These effects are linked to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial potential, which helps prevent the growth of bacteria such as E. coli, which causes bladder infections.
Blueberries, having similar properties to red ones, seem to cause a similar effect. In a study reported in Evidence-Based Practice, researchers determined that this variety of cranberries has the potential to help prevent urinary tract infections.
For its part, the magazine Antoxidants highlights that blueberry anthocyanins are adjuvants in preventing and treating this type of infection. In an in vitro study, they exhibited antibacterial activity against Klebsiella pneumoniae strains, Providencia stuartii, and Micrococcus spp.
11. They help protect visual health
Blueberries have long been popularized as a ‘superfood’ for eye health. It was claimed that its consumption could help improve night vision and reverse some eye diseases. However, this was denied.
An article in the American Chemical Society reported that a blueberry-supplemented diet did not improve vision in the dark but helped help to restore vision after exposure to bright light.
In addition, they are believed to have other preventative benefits. Through the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, it is reported that cyanidin-3-glucoside (a type of anthocyanin from blueberries) helps prevent retinal diseases.
12. They benefit the health of the skin
There are various benefits of blueberries for skin health. First of all, its concentration of antioxidants helps to inhibit the adverse effects of free radicals, which are mainly responsible for premature cell aging. They also help prevent photodamage and some skin infections.
On the other hand, nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other phytoconstituents give it anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in acne, psoriasis, and eczema cases.
Myths about the benefits of blueberries
As we have discussed, the intake of blueberries can contribute to health care in many ways. Even so, some beliefs have been spread around this issue that can confuse its effects. We must start from the idea that neither this nor other foods are ‘super powerful.’
So, here are some myths to stop believing about blueberries:
- They are not a cure for cystitis or urinary tract infections. Although some studies suggest they have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, they are not a therapeutic option for these diseases. In case of presenting them, it is best to follow medical treatment.
- They are not cancer treatments. We saw that some studies speak of the antitumor potential of these fruits; however, there is not enough evidence to suppose that they help to cure the disease. They are not a substitute for chemotherapy or other cancer therapies. Its consumption has benefits of a preventive nature.
- It is false that they help detoxify the body. No food can purify toxins from the body. As long as the body is healthy, organs such as the liver, kidneys, and colon take care of this process naturally. Of course, in these functions, diet plays a key role.
How to introduce blueberries into the daily diet?
With the expansion of the cultivation of this fruit, nowadays, they can be bought during a large part of the year. They are found in supermarkets and local markets. Due to its soft and sweet flavor and slightly crunchy texture, it is possible to eat them alone or add them to various preparations. Some ideas are as follows:
- Fresh and whole, they are a perfect snack for mid-morning or mid-afternoon. They can be combined with other berries, like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- They are ideal for preparing smoothies with vegetables, fruits, yogurt, or drinks.
- They go great with plain yogurt, a cereal bowl, or porridge.
- They can be incorporated into salads. It is not usually one of the most common options, but it is a way to add color and freshness.
- They are recommended to prepare healthy ice creams. They can be combined with Greek yogurt, coconut milk, or avocado.
- Finally, they can be prepared in jams or compotes. Of course, these recipes usually require sugar, so they are not the healthiest option.
When buying them, you have to choose those with a bright and intense color, do not have bruises, or are firm. Once collected, they no longer mature, so avoiding those that are green is preferable.
The problem with this fruit is that it deteriorates very quickly. Therefore, it is best to buy the right amount. We must try to keep them dry in the refrigerator since they can present mold in humid conditions. Ideally, wash them just before consumption.
Blueberries are healthy but not miraculous.
It is true that including blueberries in the regular diet can provide essential health benefits. However, those beliefs that by themselves are ‘super powerful’ or ‘healing’ must be eliminated.
Like other foods, they are healthy for their nutritional value. Consuming them regularly, always in moderate amounts, is a way to improve the quality of the diet.