Blueberries are a very popular and tasty fruit. Although blueberries are native to North America, they are grown commercially in the Americas and Europe. They are low in calories and incredibly healthy. Often referred to as a superfood, blueberries are an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant compounds, and antioxidants.
Blueberries have a pleasant, sweet taste and are available fresh, frozen, juiced, and dried. They can be used in a variety of baked goods, jams, jellies, and for flavorings.
The two most common varieties of blueberries are highbush and lowbush blueberries. Highbush blueberries are also called cultivated blueberries and are the most commonly grown species in the US. They are cultivated on farms where they grow on bushes that usually peak around 6 feet high. The blueberries are harvested by hand and also by machine.
Lowbush blueberries are also called wild blueberries. They are not cultivated, but grow in the harsh northern climate of Maine and Canada. The harsh climate, and what it takes to survive in it, gives wild blueberries a higher level of antioxidants than cultivated blueberries.
Blueberries range in color from blue to purple.
Reasons to Eat Blueberries
1. Blueberries are nutritious
A half-cup serving of blueberries contains 2 grams of dietary fiber and 25 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, and only 40 calories. Much of the power of blueberries lies in their colors. The deep blue hue comes from anthocyanins, antioxidants that could help protect the body from cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as increase immune function.
2. Blueberries keep your brain sharp
A 2012 study by Harvard researchers found that a high intake of blueberries and strawberries, over time, could delay memory decline in older women by two and a half years. The researchers observed a modest reduction in memory decline among women who consumed two half-cup servings or more of blueberries and strawberries a week.
3. Blueberries fight cancer
Research done by Rutgers University show that Pterostilbene, a major component of blueberries, protects against colon cancer. Blueberry extract has also been found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and decrease enzymes associated with cancer spreading.
4. Blueberries lower blood pressure
Blueberries are an excellent source of anthocyanins which seem to lower blood pressure and make blood vessels dilate. A 2011 study showed that eating just one cup of blueberries or strawberries a week can lower your risk of developing high blood pressure. Over 100,00 men and women participated in the 14-year study. The researchers found that those who consumed the most anthocyanins from blueberries and strawberries had an 8% reduction in their risk of developing high blood pressure. They concluded that the anthocyanins lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.
5. Blueberries protect the heart
A study published in 2013 by Harvard School of Public Health showed that women who consumed three servings a week of blueberries or strawberries were 34% less likely to suffer a heart attack than women who ate the least of these fruits. Although the 18-year study focused on young and middle-age women, the findings likely apply to everyone, including men.
6. Blueberries aid weight loss
Blueberries are a juicy fruit, which means they contain mostly water. Juicy fruits are great for weight loss or weight maintenance, because they fill you up quickly with their high water content and minimal calories.
7. Blueberries improve blood sugar
Blueberries have a glycemic index of 53, which is relatively low. This means that blueberries should not cause major blood sugar spikes.
8. Blueberries protect against Parkinson’s Disease
A 2011 study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that men and women who regularly eat berries may reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The researchers believe that the high flavonoid content in berries help ward off the disease. Study participants who consumed the most flavonoids were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.
Putting It Into Practice
- Buy organic when possible: Because blueberries are vulnerable to worms and other insects, the conventionally grown varieties are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Therefore it is best to buy organically grown varieties. Also, always wash fruit before eating.
- Eat fresh and in salads: Blueberries are great eaten fresh or tossed into green salads.
- Use as a topping: Blueberries can be added to oatmeal, cereal and yogurt. To prolong the shelf life, it is best to keep them refrigerated.
- Cook them: Blueberries can be baked for added sweetness and nutrition. They can also be made into jam and jelly.
- Freeze them: You can buy frozen blueberries, or you can freeze fresh ones yourself. During the summer months when blueberries are plentiful, you can buy them in large quantities on sale and freeze them. Just wash and dry the berries, lay them on a pan and freeze until they are solid. Package the frozen berries in freezer-safe storage bags, so they are ready for the winter months.
- Try other berries: If you don’t like blueberries or can’t find them, other berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are a tasty alternative.
- A balanced diet is best: While blueberries are healthy, it is best to include other fruits to meet your daily fruit quota. So in addition to blueberries and other berries, also eat the colors of the rainbow (blue, purple, red, yellow, green, orange) for better total health.