Superfoods are defined as a food that offers maximum nutrient benefit, calorie for calorie. Blueberries really couldn’t offer any more bang for their buck, as they are a very low calorie food that are packed with crucial minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Not to mention, they are also incredibly delicious.
Blueberries are native to North America, and many Native American populations took advantage of their sweet taste and health benefits. They have also been used traditionally in cultures around the world, in both their cooked and raw form. While they start out green and tart, they become purple/blue and quite sweet once they ripen.
We’ll get into their specific health benefits in just a moment, but know that blueberries are particularly high in vitamin K, C, manganese and fiber (1). Whether you are simply enjoying them as a quick and easy snack all by themselves, including them in your favorite morning smoothie recipe, or using them in baked goods, blueberries are definitely popular for good reason.
Blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Antioxidants are crucial for health, as they protect our body from free radicals, which are molecules that can cause serious damage to our cell structure and DNA, potentially leading to cancer and other degenerative diseases (2). Blueberries have been proven to be the best source of antioxidants of all vegetables and fruits (3), which is pretty incredible. They are particularly high in flavonoids, which are the main source of blueberry’s antioxidant content.
For how low these tasty little berries are in calories, they sure do offer an impressive amount of nutrition. In just 1 serving of blueberries (about 1 cup), you’ll get 4 grams of fiber, 24% of your RDA for vitamin C, 36% for vitamin K and the vast array of antioxidants, for only 84 calories (4).
Multiple studies have shown that blueberries offer major blood pressure lowering benefits for people suffering from high blood pressure (a serious health concern for many). For example, one study showed that after 2 months of consuming 50 grams of blueberries per day, a group of obese individuals showed a 4-6% decrease in blood pressure (5). Considering how easy (and even enjoyable) it is to snack on blueberries every day, this should come as very good news to those looking for natural ways to lower blood pressure.
Blueberry’s amazing ability to actually improve brain function is also tied to their high antioxidant profile. Free radical damage and oxidative stress are both tied to an accelerated aging process and cognitive degeneration, and studies show that the particular antioxidant content found in blueberries focus in on parts of the brain involved in our intelligence (6). In fact, one 6 year study involving over 16,000 participants found that blueberries were linked to a delay in cognitive aging by 2 1/2 years (7).
Relative to most other fruits, blueberries are fairly low in sugar. 1 cup of blueberries contains 15 grams of sugar (8), compared to 23 grams in a large apple, for example. While there are certainly other fruits much lower in sugar (raspberries, papaya, avocado and rhubarb, for example), the antioxidant make up of blueberries seems to actually improve the body’s glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity (9). This has been especially shown with blueberry juice and extract, which is very good news for diabetics and those with other metabolic diseases.
Probably the best and easiest way to enjoy blueberries is simply eating them raw. 1 serving of blueberries equals 1 cup, and you will be reaping maximum nutrient benefit from enjoying them in this form (no extra added sugars, ingredients, etc). If you are lucky enough to live in an area where blueberries are grown, visit a farm at picking season and go crazy.
Blueberries make an excellent addition to smoothies, as they will add a sweet taste without the blood sugar spike that some other fruits will provoke (and could be problematic for certain individuals). Try mixing 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries together with 1 cup of unsweetened coconut or almond milk, 1/2-1 banana, 1 handful of mixed greens, 1 tbsp. of ground flax seeds and 1 serving of hemp or pea protein powder (optional), and you’ve got yourself a healthy breakfast or snack.
While blueberries are delicious any time of day, breakfast is an all time favorite for most people. Blueberries are great to have mixed with oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies (as stated above), or simply as a side to eggs. Try avoiding them with cereal (really, try avoiding cereal altogether), as this is a much more processed breakfast option. Certain granolas mixed with blueberries are find, just remember that the shorter the ingredient list, the better.
While they do make for a tasty way to start the day, blueberries are also a creative addition (not to mention a nutritious boost) to just about any lunch or dinner salad. Try including them in a salad of mixed greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, etc), tomato, cucumber, toasted almonds and a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Yum!
Opt for a cold pressed blueberry juice that has no sugar added. Lakewood Juices makes a great, organic option, and can be found in most health foods stores or purchased online. While most fruit juices are less nutritious and more blood sugar spiking than their whole fruit counterparts, this might not be the case for blueberry juice. Some of the benefits discussed above (particularly blueberry’s ability to boost cognitive function) were found in studies that specifically involved blueberry juice or extract. 1 serving equals 8 oz. of juice.
The good news is, blueberries in food amount (as opposed to extracts or supplements) is considered safe for everyone. The only exception to this could be if you are scheduled for an upcoming surgery, since blueberries have blood sugar lowering effects. If you fit into this category, consult your doctor.
Even blueberry extracts and other supplements have been generally found safe for healthy adults. However, as with any supplement, it is usually better to consult a qualified practitioner if you are going to up your dosage to a therapeutic level. Especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have diabetes or another metabolic condition, definitely check with your doctor, first.
Also, if you are taking a multivitamin, be sure you are not over-dosing with vitamin C, as blueberry extracts are high in this nutrient.
Blueberries grow on bushes that are usually planted in early spring. They require fairly acidic soil conditions, and are planted in long rows. They can sometimes grow up to 12 feet tall, but this also depends on the variety.
Blueberries derive their deep, blue color from their main antioxidant, anthocyanin, which is also a water soluble pigment. Blueberries begin their life as small and green berries, but ripen with time and become bigger and bluer.
You might have heard of both the cultivated, “high bush” blueberry variety, and also the wild, “low bush” variety. Wild blueberries are cultivated mainly in Canada and parts of Northern Maine, and actually come from a different plant. However, both are blueberries that have similar nutrient value. Usually, the kind you’ll purchase at the grocery store are the “high bush” kind of blueberry.
This depends on where you live. For example, blueberries grown as far south as Florida could be harvested in April, while blueberries grown much farther north will be harvested in October or November.
Like most fruits and vegetables, if you have the option to buy organic vs. conventional blueberries, you absolutely should. This will ensure maximum quality and lessened exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. If you can’t find or afford organic blueberries; however, just be sure to wash them well before eating.
Yes! Freezing blueberries is the best way to enjoy them all year round, and their nutrient content will be preserved well. Do not wash them prior to freezing, and simply place them in an air-tight bag or container.
Also, yes. Especially if you do not live in an area where fresh blueberries are available, buying them frozen is a great option. Frozen blueberries are definitely superior to dried blueberries, as their sugar content is not nearly as high.
Blueberries have been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, improve cognitive function and memory, provide incredible antioxidant support, maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Even though blueberries are a moderate-sugar fruit, their specific constitution has actually been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and support proper glucose metabolism. They make an excellent fruit choice for Diabetics or individuals suffering from other metabolic conditions.
1 serving of blueberries equals about 1 cup, raw.
Place your blueberries in a sealable bag, with an apple. The ethylene from the apple will actually speed up the ripening process of your blueberries.
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