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Superfood: Blueberries

Superfood: Blueberries
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Blueberries are healthy and super sweet – we all know that, right? Plus, they make a killer pie. But it turns out these summer favorites are actually a superfruit packed with antioxidants that may fight disease and help with brain health. Read on to learn why this fruit easily earns the title of “super.”

WHY THEY’RE SUPER

At 84 calories per cup, a serving of berries contains 14 percent of the suggested daily fiber and 24 percent of the suggested daily intake of Vitamin C. But it gets better. Research suggests blueberries deliver some even more powerful and long-lasting health benefits. One study found that consuming a cup of blueberries per week can lower blood pressure and perhaps speed up metabolism, due mostly to their high levels of  anthocyanins (a type of antioxidant)[1]Another study suggests blueberries can lower levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol), potentially reducing the risk of coronary heart disease [2]. Blueberries may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells [3].

So adding some baby blues to a fruit salad may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer – great news for your body. But what about your brain? Blueberries have that covered, too. Psychiatrists at the University of Cincinnati found that wild blueberry juice enhanced memory and learning function in older adults while reducing blood sugar and decreasing symptoms of depression [4]. Because of these findings, some researchers suggest blueberries could potentially fight more serious memory problems like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's (though more research is needed) [5]. The most recent research on this tiny superfood backs up that claim. Using a food-frequency questionnaire, scientists have been able to link a higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, to reduced rates of cognitive decline in the elderly [6].

FEELING BLUE? YOUR ACTION PLAN 

For the freshest in-season blueberries, buy or pick your own May to October. Craving these blue babies out of season? Most grocery stores sell them all year long, though these varieties tend to be more expensive (and come from further away). Don’t forget about dried and frozen alternatives, perfect for smoothies and baked goods any time of the year.

Is there such thing as eating too many blueberries? They do have a relatively high sugar content (especially in dried form), but when sticking to the suggested serving size of one cup of fresh berries, that’s nothing to worry about.

Blueberries are great washed and eaten by the handful, but don’t be afraid to be creative with these itty bitty fruits. Toss ‘em in a yogurt parfait, add to whole-grain waffles topped with banana, cinnamon, and nut butter, or try them in a smoothie. 

What's your favorite way to eat blueberries? Share in the comments below!

Originally posted April 2011. Updated July 2013 by Sarah Koppelkam

Works Cited +

  1. Habitual intake of flavonoid subclasses and incident hypertension in adults. Cassidy, A., O'Reilly, ÉJ., Kay, C., et al. School of Medicine, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 Feb;93(2):338-47.
  2. Berries: Emerging Impact on Cardiovascular Health. Basu A., Rhone M., Lyons TJ. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Nutrition Reviews. 2010 March; 68(3): 168-77.
  3. Blueberry phytochemicals inhibit growth and metastatic potential of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Adams, LS., Phung, S., Yee, N., et al. Division of Tumor Cell Biology, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, California 91010, USA. Cancer Research 2010 May 1;70(9):3594-605.
  4. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Krikorian, R., Shidler, MD., Nash, TA., et al. epartment of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000.
  5. Towards a unifying, systems biology understanding of large-scale cellular death and destruction caused by poorly liganded iron. Kell, DB. School of Chemistry and the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, The University of Manchester, Manchester M1 7DN, UK. Archives of Toxicology 2010 Nov;84(11):825-89.
  6. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Krikorian R., Shidler M.D., Nash T.A., et al. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000.

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