Pop quiz! Which fruit delivers the most powerful anti-oxidant punch? If you read the title of this article and wisely guessed, “Blueberries?” you are absolutely correct.
Fresh blueberries are simply delicious. Who can resist blueberry pancakes smothered in blueberry syrup? Some folks toss a few into their bowl of breakfast cereal. I happen to like blueberries baked into muffins. They are also great in smoothies, imparting their signature deep purple color to anything they touch (including clothes and upholstery so be careful out there).
Many people think blueberries appear on grocery shelves only during the summer months (April to September) when North American harvests roll in but the beneficial fruit is also imported from South American farmers between October and March.
Blueberries are a perennial favorite in places where they flourish and can produce fruit for an incredible 40 to 50 years after maturing. The crop likes full sun, well-drained soil, acidic soil (5.0 pH), with a top dressing of rich organic material such as compost or a manure/peat mixture. Blueberries only tolerate partial shade, preferably late in the day.
Once the berries have ripened on the “lowbush” (low-to-the-ground) shrub’s branches, they are ready for picking. It takes a lot of little blueberries to fill a quart container, let me tell you. But the payoff in terms of taste and nutrition is well worth the sweat and stooping to “carpe baca” – seize the berry!
The potent inflammation-fighting and cell-protecting antioxidant in blueberries that make them purply blue is called anthocyanin. The flavonoid anthocyanin is responsible for the color of food plants that are red, blue, purple, or black, such as blueberries, raspberries, black rice, and black soybeans.
Polyphenolic compounds found in blueberries guard the body from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation or disease-causing germs. They also strengthen blood vessels and help protect the heart.
Long-term consumption of diets rich in plant polyphenols helps prevent the onset of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Most berries help diabetics and other people monitoring their blood sugar levels prevent glucose spikes and crashes. After consuming blueberries, both soluble and insoluble fiber in them can help slow down the gastrointestinal tract for more thorough digestion. Slower digestion releases a steadier supply of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream to provide stable, long-lasting energy.
For a fruit, blueberries are incredibly low-cal. Here’s what you get from one cup of fresh blueberries:
- Calories: 80
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 21 g
- Fiber: 3.6 g
- Sugar: 15 g
- Protein: 1.1 g
- Potassium: 114 mg
- Vitamin C: 24% DV
- Vitamin B6: 5% DV
Blueberries are sold in the freezer section of many supermarkets. Farmers flash-freeze the bush-ripened berries at their peak, often within hours of picking, to retain the most nutritional value, health benefits, and optimal flavor. However, there is a chance that some of the antioxidant anthocyanin will be destroyed by the freezing process.
Fresh or frozen, blueberries make a great addition to fruit salads or as a quick snack.
More generally, science is showing that eating more plant foods such as blueberries reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. These foods may also improve hair and skin health, increase energy, and lower overall body weight.
These remarkable berries can help with quite a few health problems, including:
Heart health. The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and phytonutrients contained in blueberries promote a healthy heart. Cholesterol-free blueberries also benefit the heart. Their fiber content helps lower the total amount of blood cholesterol and reduces the odds of heart disease.
Bone strength. Iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K in blueberries are all components of bone. Iron and zinc are key to keeping bones and joints strong and elastic. Vitamin K deficiencies are associated with a higher risk of bone fracture but getting enough vitamin K boosts calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss. Bone structure and strength benefit from consuming adequate amounts of these minerals and vitamins.
Skin health. Vitamin C helps the body produce collagen, the skin’s support and defense system against oxidants from the sun, pollution, and smoke. Research suggests that vitamin C increases collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and enhance overall skin texture.
Lower blood pressure. Sodium-free blueberries are loaded with potassium, calcium, and magnesium which are thought to help reduce blood pressure.
Cancer prevention. Vitamin C, vitamin A, and the other phytonutrients in blueberries act as powerful antioxidants may inhibit tumor growth, decrease inflammation in the body, and help prevent or retard esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate, and colon cancers. Folate is linked to stopping the formation of cancer cells due to mutations in the DNA.
Mental health. Blueberry flavonoids are linked with lowering the risk of losing cognition (the ability to think clearly) and dementia (brain disease) by improving blood circulation and protecting the brain from cellular damage.
Do yourself a world of good and add blueberries to your shopping list. This superfood is super good – and “berry” good for you!