Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods available to us all year round. More and more researchers publish study results that are quite amazing. Short of a nutritional miracle this tiny dark berries can help reverse effects of premature aging and improve debilitating conditions.
Blueberry is a native North American perennial flowering plant from the genus Vaccinium that also includes cranberries, lingonberries and bilberries. The plant produces indigo-colored berries and is mostly cultivated in North America and Europe, but also grows successfully in other parts of the world.
Blueberries are very high in vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, copper and dietary fiber. They contain anthocyanins, flavonols, and other phytonutrients that include resveratrol and pterostilbene. Studies demonstrated that all these phytonutirents act as antioxidants that protect the whole body from oxidative stress. These nutrients protect the DNA and act as anti-inflammatory agents that help reduce inflammation in the body.
The latest research suggests that compounds in blueberries may help slow down age-related damage to the brain cells, reverse age-related memory loss and improve overall cognitive health. Test subjects who consumed blueberries had improved memory, learning skills, cognition, reasoning, verbal comprehension and numerical skills.
Blueberries may help slow down cognitive decline in aging adults and prevent against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Researchers discovered that compounds in blueberries significantly increase production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine deficiency is associated with bad mood, depression and Parkinson's disease. Increased consumption of blueberries may help ward off the onset of Parkinson's disease, improve mood and alleviate depression in dopamine deficient individuals.
Blueberries protect blood vessels from oxidative stress and help balance cholesterol. People who ate 1-2 cups of blueberries daily for a period of 1-3 months had increased levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduced levels of LDL or the blood vessels clogging and damaging bad cholesterol. Blueberry extract was shown to lower blood pressure. People who eat blueberries on regular basis have much lower chance of developing hypertension. Research shows that blueberries help lower blood pressure in two ways: On the one hand they help blood vessels to relax reducing the resistance to blood flow; on the other, blueberries (the extract, to be precise) inhibits the protein that the body uses to keep blood pressure elevated.
Blueberries are classified as low-GI fruits. GI or the Glycemic Index is a method of measuring the impact of food on our blood glucose levels. Foods with lower GI release glucose more slowly and steadily and do not cause glucose spikes. This is important for people who struggle with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity. In addition, fiber in blueberries helps to further balance blood sugar and improve health of those patients who were diagnosed with blood sugar problems.
Various studies demonstrated that blueberry extract may prevent uncontrolled cell reproduction that could lead to formation of tumors. The extract also prevented formation of pre-cancerous lesions. Cancers such as that of the colon or the cervix begin as pre-cancerous lesions and turn into malignant tumors. Blueberry extract greatly reduced formation of such abnormal tissues.
Blueberry extract also prevented angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that feed the tumors. Cancer has the ability to spread to adjacent or distant organs. Tumor cells can penetrate the blood (and lymphatic) vessels and spread throughout the body. For the metastatic spread of cancer a network of blood (and lymphatic) vessels is important. The formation of new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. (The formation of new lymph vessels is called lymphangiogenesis.) Blueberry extract curtails this growth of blood vessels and increases survival rate in cancer patients. It also has the ability to inhibit enzyme responsible for the proliferation of cancer cells. And last but not least, the extract triggers apoptosis or cancer cells' death.
Antioxidants in blueberries help protect the retina from oxidative damage. They also protect the retina from damage caused by the sun. Anthocyanosides in blueberries provide protection against such disorders as the age-related macular degeneration, myopia, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, extreme dryness and retinal infections. People who consume blueberries on regular basis report improved night vision.
Just like cranberries, blueberries contain compounds that prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. According to latest research this helps ward off the urinary tract infections.
As I mentioned before, blueberries have a very low glycemic index and help balance blood sugar. This helps people with weight problems to reduce cravings. Blueberries help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and improve fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity. Moreover, polyphenols and catechins found in blueberries help activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells. And last but not least, fiber in blueberries helps improve digestion and elimination. All these factors combined with active lifestyle, exercise and sensible calorie intake may contribute to a desired weight loss.
There is hardly any system in the body that is not positively affected by the consumption of blueberries. Adding one or two cups of blueberries to your daily diet can help your reverse premature aging and protect you from many diseases.
Blueberries are rather inexpensive and are easily accessible throughout the year. When buying fresh blueberries make sure that you are buying pesticide-free organically grown berries. They are darker and richer in antioxidants. Fresh and frozen blueberries can be used to make smoothies or desserts. Dried blueberries can be added to cereals or trail mixes.
Standardized blueberry extract sold in capsules has one advantage over the fresh fruit. It provides the most reliable means of delivering the vital flavonoid components to your body. Capsules can be taken as a means of prevention in addition to regular consumption of fresh fruit.
By Dominique Allmon
By Dominique Allmon
For inspiring blueberry recipes visit my raw food blog Passionately Raw!
*This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Health Benefits of Blueberries by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.