Blue berries: Antioxidants and Other Blueberry Benefits with Christopher Walker
Blueberries 101: What’s in Them, Their Benefits, How to Eat, and Everything Else to Know
Blueberries are one of the tiniest fruits, but don’t let their small size fool you.
This summer berry is full of antioxidants and vitamins, and is the perfect choice for a healthy snack or making a dish come alive. Here’s what you need to know about blueberries, as well as a few recipes you can experiment with this week.
What Are Blueberries, and Where Does the Fruit Come From?
Blueberries are eaten widely in the United States today, but they don’t have a long history as a cultivated fruit.
As a crop their history dates only to the dawn of the 20th century, when the daughter of a New Jersey farmer teamed up with a botanist to cultivate and breed blueberries. The first crops were harvested in 1916, igniting the blueberry boom and our love for this tiny fruit. (1)
Blueberries are plump, sweet, and juicy, with a color that ranges from indigo to deep purple.
While the cultivated variety of the fruit originated in New Jersey, it’s currently grown in 38 states commercially, and in other parts of the world (Canada, British Columbia, and South America). (1)
What’s in Blueberries? A Look at the Fruit’s Nutrition Facts
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of blueberries — about 148 grams (g) — has about 84 calories. ()
Other nutritional facts for blueberries:
- 3.6 g dietary fiber, or 14.4 percent of your daily value (DV)
- 9 milligrams (mg) calcium, 0.9 percent DV
- 9 mg magnesium, 2.25 percent DV
- 114 mg potassium, 2.42 percent DV
- 14.4 mg vitamin C, 24 percent DV
- 9 micrograms (mcg) folate, 2.25 percent DV
- 80 international units (IU) vitamin A, 1.6 percent DV
- 0.84 mg vitamin E, 4.2 percent DV
- 28.6 mcg of vitamin K, 35.8 percent DV
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What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Blueberries?
The sweet, succulent taste of blueberries make it a desirable fruit, but this isn’t the only reason to pick up a bunch on your next grocery run.
Here’s a look at what research suggests blueberries are good for.
May Help Boost Brain Function
Anthocyanins are natural colorants that give fruits and vegetables a red, purple, or blue color. This colorant is also found in blueberries and has been linked with improved memory and cognitive function. (3)
According to one study, blueberry supplements may help improve memory in elderly people. (3) Similarly, another small study on wild blueberry powder found this version of the fruit may help boost problem-solving and memory in children, resulting in higher test scores. (4)
Can Help Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease
Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, which are substances that help inhibit oxidative stress and free radicals that cause cell damage.
Compounds in blueberries known as polyphenols have strong antioxidant properties. One study found that blueberry polyphenols may help protect against heart disease and reduce high blood pressure, thus offering protection against heart attack and stroke. (5,6)
May Play a Role in Lowering Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
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Blueberries also contain flavonoids, a group of natural substances that may help improve glucose metabolism in people with diabetes. Flavonoids may also help improve insulin sensitivity in people who are obese and have insulin resistance, thus reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (7)
Helps You Maintain Healthy, Strong Bones
Eating blueberries may also protect your bones and joints. Blueberries are a source of manganese, which plays a role in healthy bone development. In addition, the vitamin C in blueberries can improve collagen. (8,9)
Could Play a Part in Helping Prevent Some Cancers
The antioxidant effect of blueberries can reduce inflammation throughout your body and may inhibit the growth of cancer — stopping cells from becoming malignant and slowing the growth of cancerous cells. (10)
May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
UTIs are painful. Symptoms of UTIs often include blood in the urine, burning urination, and lower abdominal pain. Blueberries may inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections:E. coli. (11)
If you have a history of recurrent UTIs, eating blueberries on a regular basis may help prevent future infections.
Has the Potential to Improve Your Mood
Eating blueberries may also provide a dose of happiness and help relieve symptoms of depression.
There’s evidence to suggest that the flavonoids in blueberries can decrease the risk of depression and improve mood in children and young adults. (12) One animal study suggests that blueberries may also improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (13)
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If You’re on a Diet, Can Blueberries Help With Weight Loss?
Following a weight loss diet involves restricting what you eat, which usually means eating little to no sugar. Unfortunately, dieting may also trigger stronger sugar cravings.
Blueberries are a healthy choice when you want something sweet but don’t want to sabotage your weight-loss efforts. A cup contains only about 80 calories — plus, blueberries are full of fiber. This fact can help you feel full longer and potentially eat less. (2)
How to Select and Store Blueberries for the Freshest Quality
Fresh blueberries can be purchased year-round. For the best flavor, however, it’s important to pick a quality batch.
When grocery shopping, look specifically for blueberries that are firm and dry. A quality blueberry will also have smooth skin and a deep color, either a deep purplish-blue or blue to black. (14)
Sometimes, you may stumble upon blueberries that are reddish in color. These blueberries are not ripe and don’t contain as much flavor as ripened berries.
Carefully examine a batch of blueberries before purchase. Don’t purchase berries that are shriveled, soft, or moldy.
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It’s always important to wash your blueberries just before eating, and keep them refrigerated after purchase to ensure freshness. As with other produce, blueberries don’t last long. So eat them within 10 days of purchase. (14)
There’s also the option of buying frozen blueberries, which come in handy if you’re looking to add blueberries to smoothies or yogurt. Make sure it's a high-quality bag of frozen blueberries.
Feel the bag before purchasing to ensure the blueberries are loose and not frozen into a lump, which can be difficult to separate when preparing frozen drinks like smoothies. If you choose to thaw a bag of frozen blueberries, store unfrozen berries in the refrigerator and use within three days. (14)
What’s the Best Way to Eat Blueberries? Here’s Some Recipe Inspiration
Blueberries can add variety to many dishes and desserts. Eat blueberries raw, or toss a few in fat-free or low-fat yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal.
Blueberries are also perfect for smoothies or shakes. Combine the fruit in a blender with other fruits, such as bananas, kiwis, strawberries, or pineapple. Or prepare a baked dish with blueberries, such as cakes, muffins, or pancakes.
Here’s a look at a few simple blueberry recipes:
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Other Uses for Blueberries: How to Use the Fruit in Your Beauty Routine
Blueberries don’t only benefit the inside of your body. They can also benefit the outside. Because this powerful antioxidant fruit contains vitamins C and E, it can also be used for skin care — to possibly help minimize fine lines and wrinkles, remove scars, increase skin elasticity, moisturize, remove blemishes, and even skin tone. (15,16)
In fact, several skin care products on the market contain blueberry, or you can make your own blueberry facial mask with simple ingredients. For example, blend ½ cup of blueberries with 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of organic honey and 1 tbsp of olive oil. (17)
Apply the mask to your face and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Remove with warm water.
Are There Any Health Risks Involved With Eating Blueberries?
Given the healthy nature of blueberries, it might be hard to imagine this fruit posing any health risks. But blueberries aren’t the right choice for everyone.
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You should talk to your doctor if you take blood-thinning medication. Blueberries contain vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting. Eating too many all at once may reduce the effectiveness of these medications. (18)
Also, avoid blueberries if you’re allergic to salicylate, a chemical that is found in the berries. (19)
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Frequently Asked Questions About Blueberries and the Answers
Here are the fast answers to some common queries about blueberries.
Q: Do blueberries make you fat?
A: Because blueberries are low in calories and a good source of fiber, this fruit is an excellent choice for weight management. When eaten in moderation, blueberries will not make you fat. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to eat enough blueberries to have them increase your weight. One cup contains only 80 calories. (2)
Q: What can blueberries do for the body?
A: Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants that can help improve your overall well-being. These antioxidants can fight inflammation, repair cell damage, reduce the risk of cancer, and contribute to a healthy heart and glucose level. (5,6,7) Blueberries may also improve symptoms of depression and help prevent UTIs. (11,12)
Q: Are blueberries good to eat every day?
A: You should eat at least two to three servings of fruit per day. Blueberries are safe to eat every day. But be sure to speak with your doctor if you take a blood thinner. You should avoid blueberries if you’re allergic to the chemical salicylate. (18,19)
Q: When are blueberries in season?
A: In the United States and Canada, blueberry season peaks in the summer. But it’s possible to purchase blueberries year-round from many grocery stores. During these times of the year, stores often receive imports from South America. (20)
Q: Can I eat blueberries that are red in color?
A: Reddish-colored blueberries are edible. Keep in mind that these blueberries are not ripe, so they may have a sour taste. Although these berries aren’t the best choice for eating raw, you can cook with red blueberries without ruining the taste of your dish. (20)
Q: Are blueberries good for the skin?
A: Yes, blueberries are a good source of vitamin C, and they also contain vitamin E. This nutrient can help improve skin elasticity, reduce sun damage, and help slow skin aging. (15,16)
Q: Can blueberries be left out of the fridge?
A: Blueberries are highly perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator to help prolong freshness and prevent early spoilage.
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A Final Word on Eating Blueberries and Reaping Their Possible Health Benefits
Whether you’re buying fresh or frozen, blueberries are a perfect snack to eat on their own, and a healthy addition to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. With its sweetness and juiciness, this small fruit packs a huge punch and can enhance the flavor of just about anything.
Video: Health Advantages of Blueberries
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